Beethoven & Dinosaur’s The Artful Escape Is Telekinetic Prophetic Dynamite [Preview]
No matter how fleeting the feeling, we've all dreamed of being a rock star at one time or another in our lives. Some video games have come close to giving us that feeling, with the likes of Rock Band and Guitar Hero putting the power directly in our hands. Few developers have looked beyond the rhythm to the central source of those desires, but with The Artful Escape, Beethoven & Dinosaur can count itself among them. Rather than turning us into the greatest cover band in the virtual world, The Artful Escape takes us on a psychedelic trip through the multiverse to find the artist within.
One look at a single screenshot from The Artful Escape should clue you in on the idea this title is anything but another run of the mill music experience. Every frame of Beethoven & Dinosaur's title is oozing with prog rock style, and hosts some of the heaviest neon visages we've seen on this side of Dark Side of the Moon. It's an impressive visual spectacle that draws you in, with the inter-dimensional alien worlds standing out in stark contrast to lead character Francis Venditti's more pop-art stylings. And all of that is before you even hear a single sound from The Artful Escape's haunting electric score.
You can't be a game about a rising star in search of his own meaning in rock's cosmic ocean without having a soundtrack to back it up. Though we only got to play through a small segment of The Artful Escape, there's no doubt the development team put in an incredible amount of time crafting and curating not just the sounds of the world, but how Francis can interject his own personality into them. The game has strong music, but whenever players want, they can summon Francis's guitar from the electric ether for a bit of shredding. Those chords and solos aren't just random however; they all fit into the overture playing in the background. It's a terrific bit of immersion, and truly makes you feel like a spiritual being in tune with his tools and the universe Francis inhabits at large.
That spirituality isn't just something you can feel, it's also something you can see directly. One of the first times you pull down the guitar, there's a bit of a Close Encounters of the Third Kind vibe from echoing a creature Francis must converse with to continue. In that moment, a virtual stage opens around Francis, with a bit of inspiration from the Kabbalah Tree of Life serving as your button guide for this game of memory. The layout is intuitive and having it represented in such a manner ties even closer to the idea that there are divine spirits of rock guiding Francis on his journey.
That echoes to one of the core concepts driving The Artful Escape. This story and game are more about the presence of the artist and the art than they are about Francis's personal journey. This was expressed a little bit in the few snippets of dialogue we had to choose while playing. Francis has a mysterious guide named Violetta that often stops him for a bit of conversation, which then gave us prompts to choose that would guide our version of Francis to become the artist we wanted. It's eccentric and freeform, but it suits the world of The Artful Escape perfectly. There are few artists from prog rock's hey day in the '70s and early '80s that don't or didn't speak in the same sort of pseudo-theological ramblings about the craft. Granted we only caught a tiny amount, but it was still enough to make us smile. It was a bit like being in the room in those early days of Rolling Stone, when artist interviews were unfiltered and more authentic. And also tripping wildly.
Then there's the part of The Artful Escape where your guitar turns into an electric light snowboard. While riding, you pass by these dormant creatures that glow with the power of your presence when you ride by them. Leaping from cliffs down to the ground below, a laser kaleidoscope explodes through the night sky. This game truly has everything you could ever desire from the imaginative doodles of rock-obsessed teen's math notebook.
As an unapologetic '70s rock tribute, The Artful Escape is one of the most unique and enthralling demos we played at E3. It isn't quite finished yet, so it'll be a while until we learn more about what Francis is up to in the dimensions of sight and sound hidden behind our eyes when listening to our favorite albums. What we do know is Beethoven & Dinosaur have a very promising indie hit on their hands, and it's one game we'll be keeping a close eye and ear on for the next... well, however long until The Artful Escape releases.
The Artful Escape will be out on Xbox One and PC whenever it's damn ready.