Eventually there’s a brand new Guitar Hero sport, solely this one doesn’t require you to mud off the pile of plastic peripherals you’ve lengthy since stashed on a shelf in your storage. A musical voyage of non-public discovery for its axe-wielding star, Francis Vendetti, The Clever Escape is a story-driven platforming journey that weaves in gentle rhythm sport mechanics as you blaze fiery riffs via cosmic rifts throughout the universe and again once more. Impressed intergalactic environments, a charmingly quirky forged, and a few sparklingly grandiose guitarwork propel The Clever Escape into what turns into a genuinely magical thriller tour.
Though it options quite a few beasts from different worlds to confront alongside the way in which, the main villain in The Clever Escape takes the type of a demon that I discovered way more relatable than any evil alien menace; Francis’ personal sense of self doubt. With the shadow of his profitable folks singing uncle looming giant over his nascent musical profession, Francis struggles with the stress of making an attempt to be one thing he’s not as he prepares to make his onstage debut at a musical pageant in his hometown of Calypso, Colorado. He isn’t turned on by the humdrum of the common-or-garden strum; for him, one of the best tonic is a freshly shredded pentatonic. The sense of catharsis is palpable as you ‘press X to shred a sci-fi guitar odyssey’ throughout The Clever Escape’s opening moments and rip some scorching licks on a hilltop that make the Rocky Mountains rock even tougher.
From there, it felt as if I’d been whisked away into the pleasantly peculiar within a Wes Anderson movie, albeit one with considerably extra aliens. The Clever Escape doesn’t simply characteristic the putting lateral digital camera monitoring pictures and delightfully deadpan line supply from the likes of The Grand Budapest Resort or The Darjeeling Restricted, it additionally includes a splendidly offbeat Jason Schwartzman-style character… who simply occurs to be voiced by Jason Schwartzman. It’s his character of Zomm, successfully a floating mind in a jar from outer house, who visits Francis in the course of the night time, equips him with a holographic guitar and matching Tron jumpsuit, and sends him on his first interplanetary steps towards his transformation from awkward espresso store shoegazer to Ziggy Stardust-like musical trailblazer.
Over the course of the following four-hour rock opera I met an assortment of fantastically flamboyant interstellar beings, from a likeably carefree cosmic entity voiced by Recreation of Thrones’ Lena Headey, to an extraterrestrial jazz membership proprietor who solely speaks in saxophone. My favorite of all of them was Francis’ musical mentor, Lightman, a cross between Chuck Berry and Doc Brown who’s voiced with actual verve by ‘80s motion star Carl Weathers. The perpetually baffled however at all times endearingly enthused efficiency of Francis himself, voiced by Teen Wolf’s Michael Johnston, served as the right foil to the contrasting eccentricities of every oddball character I encountered.
Regardless of no scarcity of hilarious dialogue choices, Francis isn’t on an intergalactic journey simply to talk, and certainly outdoors of a few key hub areas The Clever Escape principally lets his fingers do the speaking. A devoted shred button permits him to solo away as you stroll via every alien world, performing mid-air break up kicks and triumphant knee-slides with sufficient youthful exuberance to make Angus Younger appear positively Angus Historical. Francis’ ongoing fretboard frenzy is buoyed by shimmering sci-fi synths and driving drum beats that maintain The Clever Escape’s soundtrack at a persistent degree of air-punching ‘80s area rock euphoria.
There’s no actual gameplay benefit to any of this six-string showboating, since you’ll be able to quietly saunter your approach via every easy platforming part for those who’d want and never get penalised, however to take action could be to fully ignore what makes The Clever Escape so particular; it’s a platformer that emphasises efficiency over precision. Francis’ electrical guitar taking part in actually lights up the world round him, illuminating each neon avenue gentle he duckwalks previous and awakening alien fauna that pulse to the music like they’re some type of natural graphic equalizers. Spectacular audio trickery implies that even for those who cease taking part in for a second, Francis’ shredding stays completely in sync with the underlying soundtrack once you choose it again up, which helps preserve a seamlessness to the continuing spectacle.
I discovered myself in a near-constant state of bliss, whether or not I used to be taking an on-rails boat journey via a day-glo diorama like some form of widdly-widdly Willy Wonka, or being chased by an airship alongside the highest of a psychedelic cityscape seemingly ripped straight from The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. In The Clever Escape, every new world’s a stage and each degree is a laser-powered gentle present, and there wasn’t a single wailing wander that I took via all of it that didn’t make my jaw drop and my face soften as if I’d simply taken a fast gander contained in the Ark of the Covenant.
Admittedly, The Clever Escape’s gameplay isn’t given the identical quantity of growth as Francis’ evolving onstage persona or the ever-changing pyrotechnics round him. Usually, you must bask in call-and-response musical duels with sure characters, turning back-and-forths with large, interdimensional moth monsters right into a sport of Simon Shreds. However these rhythm-based mini-games, which require the memorisation of sequences constructed round 5 totally different button presses, don’t actually scale in complexity from the opening tutorial to the spectacular remaining efficiency. Their easy nature actually retains the entire thing flowing, however whereas The Clever Escape’s dazzling musical showdowns look and sound distinctive, in addition they really feel a bit samey.
However for probably the most half, I used to be too busy having fun with the sweetly picked notes to begin selecting nits, and I used to be content material to only course alongside the surging waves of boundless hypercoloured creativity with out actually caring concerning the absence of any conventional improve in problem. At one cease alongside the journey, Francis finds himself in an alien recording studio with a producer named Stargordon, who presents to supply a extra “mountainous” reverb on the guitar observe. At that time, all of the partitions fall off and the studio is rocket-propelled into the air above an alpine expanse the place each notice you play is accompanied by beams of sunshine blasted out of the mouths of a marching herd of dinosaur skeletons. It’s as breathtaking as it’s completely bonkers, and it was simply considered one of many sequences in The Clever Escape that left me feeling fully giddy.
That’s along with the numerous smaller particulars, from the retailers in Calypso which have in-joke names like ‘Plant & Web page: Unique Flora and Books’ to the quantity sliders within the audio menu that every go to 11. The creators of The Clever Escape have a reverence for rock and roll, and it’s evident in virtually each aspect of the expertise.