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Annapurna’s THE ARTFUL ESCAPE is One of E3’s Best Games (Preview)

Annapurna’s THE ARTFUL ESCAPE is One of E3’s Best Games (Preview)

Microsoft‘s 2017 E3 briefing on June 11 was a celebration of technology and gaming, with the Xbox One X console and big-name publishers getting a lot of screen time. But even with all the talk of teraflops, six-figure cars, and triple-A franchises during the presentation, a colorful trailer for a little-known indie title managed to stand out. The flash of the Annapurna Interactive logo was enough to garner our interest, but the brief trailer featuring a hipster-looking dude shredding on a glowing guitar sold us on The Artful Escape. Like all of the titles in Annapurna’s game line-up, this platformer is worth your attention.

You know when you’ve got a song stuck in your head and you can’t stop humming along to music that’s not there? The Artful Escape is sort of like that—ever since we played it at E3, we can’t stop thinking about it. As the trailer shows, Francis Vendetti is a rising folk star from a legacy family, and he’s struggling with figuring out what he wants while dealing with the world’s expectations for him. He’s whisked away to a bizarre, beautiful world, guided by a ghostly figure he seems to know. The level we played was dark and snowy, with sparkling trees and neon lights creating a stark contrast against the night sky. It’s really quite beautiful, every frame dripping with style. But the impeccable design sense doesn’t end with the visuals; The Artful Escape is meant to be heard as much as seen.

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It may be a side-scrolling platformer, but it’s not like anything in the genre you’ve seen before. For starters, Francis isn’t content to simply run and jump, whipping out a glow-in-the-dark guitar and jamming at will. This allows him to “airwalk,” or basically float a bit after double-jumping. It’s necessary to clear some bottomless pits and reach higher ground, but more than once we were having so much fun rocking out, we completely forgot about the platforms and fell to our doom. One of the best parts of the demo was performing an impromptu concert by playing a sort of “Simon Says” with a giant snow creature. The ensuing electric notes and light show gave the whole thing a trippy vibe, like playing in a long-lost David Bowie album come to life.

The Artful Escape isn’t afraid to be absurd, and it’s glorious. At one point, the guitar was replaced by a glowing snowboard so Francis could propel down a mountain, because why not. The dialogue is silly but still meaningful. It’s impossible to play without grinning and bopping your head along to the music. And underneath all the neon sights and rocking sounds is a genuinely fun platformer that we can’t get out of our heads.

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Annapurna Interactive isn’t releasing The Artful Escape until it’s “damn ready,” so we probably have a long wait in store for us before we can play it on Xbox One and PC. But like a favorite band on tour, we’ll be following this one wherever it goes.

Images: Annapurna Interactive

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