The Clever Escape is a visible treat–a platforming journey that takes gamers on a journey from Earth to the galaxies past and renders each location with attractive care. Evoking quite a lot of influences, from the artist Charlie Immer to the brilliant aesthetics of Lisa Frank, The Clever Escape captures the sheer cinematic thrill of watching your helicopter explode in a Name of Obligation mission or falling off a cliff in a Naughty Canine set-piece, however transplants the motion to a voyage that goes far past the realm of the true. It’s gentler, too, telling a narrative about studying methods to be who you actually are, and never who another person expects you to be. There’s no violence to be discovered right here; simply easygoing platforming, low-pressure musical riffing, and journey gaming that goes heavy on the dialogue and omits the puzzles fully.
As the sport begins, you’re Francis Vendetti, a teen in a leather-based jacket, chunky boots, and eyewear that could possibly be steampunk goggles or the right circle glasses that John Lennon made iconic. Francis is sitting on a bench on a cliff and the primary immediate we see instructs us “To strum a folks ballad concerning the toil of a miner’s life, maintain X.” It’s instantly pretentious, and that’s intentional. Francis is the nephew of Johnson Vendetti, who’s a legend on this planet of The Clever Escape. In Calypso, the small city the place Francis has lived his entire life, his uncle is a hometown boy who made good. However “Press X to sing about miners” shouldn’t be who Francis is in any respect. It rings hole (and it ought to) as a result of Francis is making an attempt to be somebody he isn’t. However his first efficiency as a musician is scheduled for tomorrow, and Francis will probably be anticipated to carry out that false identification for everybody he is aware of. Francis will develop as a personality over The Clever Escape’s six-hour runtime, however this gameplay will stay the identical. You spend loads of time on this recreation holding X to strum in your guitar.
Then Francis meets Violetta, a punky woman with a nasty perspective and an Edna Mode haircut. Violetta appears to see one thing in Francis and tells him to hunt out Lightman’s–ostensibly a retailer in Calypso. However Francis has lived in Calypso his entire life and is aware of there’s no such place. Doesn’t matter–Violetta is off and Francis heads dwelling to get some sleep earlier than his live performance the subsequent day. It seems Francis didn’t want to seek out Lightman’s. As a substitute, Lightman, an growing old musician voiced by Carl Weathers, involves him, taking Francis to a spaceship referred to as The Lung and sweeping him up in an intergalactic voyage. He guarantees Francis will probably be again in time to play his live performance.
When Francis leaves Earth behind he leaves folks music behind, too. In house, he might be another person, somebody new, and hopefully, somebody nearer to who he actually is. This journey takes the youthful Vendetti to quite a lot of planets with simply as many environments which he’ll platform throughout, bouncing off unidentifiable launching pads and reaching inconceivable heights. All of the whereas, you may strum on Francis’ guitar, shredding out piercing solos that really feel proper at dwelling within the alien landscapes. Ranges typically conclude with you Simon Says-ing out a guitar solo by following the lead of an alien creature. That is all exhilarating and a part of the rationale it really works is that The Clever Escape takes its time beginning off. We see Calypso, we see the flyers for Francis’ live performance that characteristic an enormous image of his uncle and a stamp-sized image of him, and we hear how the opposite folks on the town discuss to him, how they relate to him not as himself, however as somebody who issues solely inasmuch as he shares a household tree with somebody who issues.
This story works nicely, nevertheless it largely succeeds despite The Clever Escape’s dialogue. Francis, and lots of the alien creatures he meets on his journey, converse in unusual metaphors that goal for suave however find yourself hitting hackneyed. Most of this dialogue is spoken as soon as Francis leaves Earth, so it appears that evidently the intent is to focus on the distinction of this unusual world in the way in which the characters converse. That’s a positive objective! However you may solely select between dialogue choices describing one thing as “like a report enjoying in a dream-room” or “like clinging to a re-entry ramjet” so many instances earlier than all of it begins to really feel like a performative quirk.
The artwork right here is sensible, although, and it’s the star of the present. It most jogs my memory of the work of Charlie Immer, an artist who makes colourful work the place the shiny roundness of all the things helps you overlook how ugly all of it actually is. The Clever Escape isn’t in any respect violent, as Immer’s work is, nevertheless it shares his infatuation with gleaming colours and smooth edges. I’ve not often performed a recreation that dedicated so totally to placing its aesthetic entrance and heart. Developer Beethoven & Dinosaur have labored time beyond regulation to make sure that nothing distracts from how lovely the artwork is, how unusual the designs, and the way hovering the set items are. Whether or not The Clever Escape is summoning the comfy greenery of a temperate forest you could possibly see on our world, or inventing gleaming alien cities, the environments are gorgeous. I like this method as a result of The Clever Escape is keen to decide to a definite aesthetic, however is unwilling to alienate gamers by making something too troublesome. You might like or dislike this recreation, however it should virtually actually be on the premise of whether or not you click on with its vibe, not since you ran into any mechanical friction. You merely run and leap via these environments holding X to play your guitar, however the degree round you goes completely gangbusters with hovering alien ships, or unusual wildlife, or weird cosmic phenomena.
That dedication to its artwork model makes The Clever Escape just a little troublesome to speak about as a recreation that you just play. It’s a platformer, it’s a music recreation, it’s an journey game–it’s just a little bit of every, however not totally any. It incorporates the vibes of all three, nevertheless it isn’t serious about, mechanically, committing to any of those genres. There are not any robust puzzles, no troublesome platforming challenges, and no sophisticated strings of notes to stretch your fingers. As a substitute, The Clever Escape incorporates the weather of every style with a view to emphasize the completely different components of its story and the settings wherein it takes place. To grasp Francis’ discomfort with the expectations positioned upon him, we’d like dialogue. To point out off the wondrous locales that developer Beethoven & Dinosaur have crafted to populate this galaxy, we’d like the pulled-back perspective of a cinematic platformer. And, to point out Francis’ musical journey, and the excellence that he has inside him, we’d like musical gameplay, however it will probably’t be an actual problem. The whole lot is as an alternative right here, and it feels proper once you play it. However The Clever Escape might be troublesome to sum up consequently.
Difficult as which may be, The Clever Escape is nonetheless an exhilarating journey that commits totally to showcasing its attractive artwork in hovering set items. Although a number of the dialogue doesn’t work, the sport is basically profitable at stripping out something that may distract from its masterful presentation. Not like Francis Vendetti at the start of his journey, The Clever Escape is aware of precisely what it’s.