Previous to PAX East, Annapurna Games, a new publisher making their debut with games like What Remains of Edith Finch and Gorogoa, hadn’t announced two of the games they would be showing at the event. On the first day, they revealed them to be The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti and Donut County. I was able to check out everything that Anapurna brought to the show, and I can confidently say that they are going to be a publisher to keep your eye on. Each of their games had something new and different to bring to the table and The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti might have been my favorite. It might have been my favorite game of the show.
At its roots, it’s a 2D platformer with a triple jump, but from the moment you look at the title screen, you can tell it’s going to be more than that. But before we get into that; some context. The gist is that Francis Vendetti, our protagonist, is a musical artist who’s uncle is a famous folk artist. As Francis gains fame, he’s left in the shadow of his uncle and is expected to be a folk artist too, but this isn’t what Francis wants. So, like all great artists, Francis goes on a psychedelic journey to discover his on-stage persona, which you’ll be able to influence through dialogue options, outfit changes, and the multitude of jam sessions he’ll have with the creatures of the world. The only thing you can’t change is what instrument Francis plays — he’s a guitarist, and upon jumping a third time in the game, he shreds so hard that he floats majestically to the ground.
The triple jump is only one of a couple of unique mechanics that make The Artful Escape interesting. Francis can also surf down hills on his guitar and have epic guitar battles with beasts that he encounters throughout his journey. Riding light beams is also a thing, which further proves how ridiculous yet awesome this game looks like it’s going to be. Francis will also encounter his friend, Violetta throughout the game, but she’s become a sort of ghost. While it’s not explained why, Violetta seems to be a sort of guide through this world. Whether she’s been there before, I couldn’t tell, but she seems to know more than Francis.
What’s immediately striking about this game is its art style. While the character models are 2D and reminiscent of Broken Age, the environment in which they exist is 3D and full of color. Its color palette is pretty much as psychedelic as you can get, and gives off the perfect vibe for a young guitarist looking to find his persona. Johnny Galvatron, the game’s creator, said, “Imagine if David Bowie had to go on a space journey and come back as Ziggy Stardust.” All this coupled with the incredible soundtrack that reacts to what is happening in the game, as well as the chords you decide to hit, gives The Artful Escape a style and personality that I’ve not seen in a game.
Galvatron noted that The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti will last around four to five hours, with it coming solely to Steam, at least for now. Expect Galvatron and the team at Beethoven and Dinosaur to go quiet for a while before releasing The Artful Escape, though. He said there’s about a year’s more work to do on the game. The thing is, the wait is going to be worth it if the final game turns out to be as rad as the demo was. Not only was it stylish and different visually, it was also a great platformer.