While the start of the year was looking kinda barren for Xbox, The Medium aside (hey, I loved it!), the latter half of the year is quickly looking to make up for any shortcomings. Death’s Door and Microsoft Flight Simulator were released to widespread acclaim. The Ascent has just launched and shows tremendous promise. 12 Minutes looks incredibly exciting. Of course, I’d also be remiss not to mention two little games called Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite. However, sandwiched between these incredibly promising games is The Artful Escape, the debut title from Beethoven and Dinosaur.
Originally announced all the way back in 2016 back when it was known as The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti, this game has intrigued players around the world with its trippy visual stylings and music. However, flash forward five years, and while the name has been shortened to “The Artful Escape”, the game itself seems more expansive and exciting than ever.
Firstly, the visuals have been made even cleaner, resulting in a breathtaking visual experience that we cannot wait to explore. The voice cast has been expanded significantly, with big-name talents such as Jason Schwartzman, Lena Heady and Tobias Funke’s mentor Carl Weathers all on board. Oh, and finally, the game releases on the 9th of September, straight into Xbox Game Pass.
I was fortunate enough to have attended a hands-on demonstration hosted by the director of the game, Johnny Galvatron, and folks, this is not one to miss. I was shown three sections of the game that illustrated the tone, lore and mechanics of the title.
The first of these sections took place at the start of the game and showcased the premise. Francis Vendetti, a precocious teen in the early ’70s, is stuck in the shadow of his uncle Johnson. We get to hear him halfheartedly play the folk music his Uncle is lauded for, before unexpectedly getting into a jam session. This grabs the attention of a mysterious girl, who takes a shine to Francis, and tells him his time has come to find his star persona. As they conversed, we were treated to some lovely folk music courtesy of a local folk artist. There is supposedly enough from this artist to fill a full EP!
However, perhaps most notable of all in this section is the addition of dialogue options. It’s not so often you get to see these in a platformer, but it does appear that The Artful Escape will have an element of choice and consequence to it.
Next, we were treated to a platforming section set within a mystical realm known as the Heliotromms, out in the far reaches of the cosmos. It is here where Francis will discover his star persona, not unlike Bowie discovering Ziggy Stardust. Along the way, he partakes in some radical guitar solos, shredding and sliding down hills in some almost Rayman Legends-like platforming. He interacts with the environment and is treated to some bits of lore, telling us the story of the heroic Lightman, the fierce Glamourgonn and a mysterious floating Austrian Opera House known as the Cosmic Lung. Yes, needless to say, this game is looking pretty trippy.
Finally, we got to see The Artful Escape’s customization options. These are unlocked halfway through the game, as the journey up to this point is one more of self-discovery and crafting your star persona. As Francis, you get to navigate a multidimensional shopping mall and shop ’till you drop. There are plenty of styles, from straight-laced, to cool to glam rock, and multiple colour options within, sometimes even with secondary and tertiary colours available. Couple this with the dialogue options we mentioned before, and it really does feel like we get to shape Francis in whatever way we see fit.
After the demonstration, we were treated to a brief Q&A with Galvatron. It was clear from the getgo that this has been a labour of love for the team, but this Q&A solidified it. The game had just finished the development stage and is now in the last bits of QA. Meanwhile, the team at Beethoven and Dinosaur are far from resting on their laurels and have already greenlit another project that they have just started. If it’s even a quarter as promising as Artful Escape is shaping up, it’s safe to say we’re in for a great time.
Our experience ended there, but the journey is far from over. We personally cannot wait to get our hands on the game, and we suspect most of you can’t either. As mentioned in the Annapurna Interactive Showcase, The Artful Escape will be launching on September 9th, straight into Game Pass. So, whether you’re a rocker, a full-blooded gamer, or anyone in between or overlapping, this is gonna be the game for you. Thankfully, the wait isn’t too long now, so let’s get ready to rock n’ roll.
Huge thanks go out to those at Annapurna (they recently behind the push of Last Stop) and Beethoven & Dinosaur for giving us the heads-up in regards The Artful Escape. Expect to see it launching on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC real soon.