Some games are there like Skinner’s boxes handing out rewards for pressing the right levers. Others are similar to slot machines that accidentally defeat serotonin receptors. Some are similar to dodgeball on the playground or after the school fighting club behind the McDonald’s dump. I have never played a game like an introduction to the record of Parliament: Mother Ship Party / I-On Mother Ship / Getting in 3-D / Light Year.
Funk is not a perfect comparison Cunning escape, a game specifically about rock ‘n’ roll and the young prodigy’s journey to guitar fame. But Cunning escape it’s also a game about free associations, so let’s indulge in some. Cunning escape it’s like riding a moth the size of an elephant to the setting sun. It’s like slipping off an endless tree branch in a magical forest. It’s like tuning into another dimension. You really do all these things in the game, but they’re also all metaphors, human.
In the wake of David Bowie and his space alter ego Ziggy Stardust, Cunning escape follows from the creation of the psychedelic stage persona of the protagonist Francis Vendetti. Francis is a science fiction writer from a town whose uncle was a legend of folk music. On the night before his first show, celebrating his uncle’s greatest hits, Francis encounters a series of intergalactic creatures that force him to confront his own routine but also his own enormity. To the public he is the ghost of a folk legend, but privately, Francis rocks. As one laser light artist from Manic Pixie tells him, “You dress like a drifter, but you sound like a space opera.” Under increasing pressure from neighbors from small towns to take his uncle’s robe, Francis escapes from his childhood bedroom on a night where a foreigner with a water cannon meets him near the house to conduct to space stunning, a vintage acid journey into the “gray matter between the parts of the universe”.
“To shatter a sci-fi guitar odyssey, hold X,” the game instructs. Francis needs to get rid of his former “I” and create a new storyline for his life — this is his jumpy space opera character. Between skating on icebergs and bouncing music bubbles, Francis hangs out with various intergalactic celebrities like a monstrous beast known as Glamorgon, sometimes to save his life.
Cunning escape goes easy. It’s four to five clean, joyful hours of easy sailing through vivid kaleidoscopic landscapes full of alien beasts and greenery. Every second of the game is exciting. Instead of a dry monologue, the story of one side character unfolds through an interactive digital museum through the path he once walked; and instead of a base platform, Francis can exhibit light poles and flocks of fireflies by simply holding an X and playing guitar. (And this guitar always resonates with the dreamy background music of each zone.) When Francis performs the show, a music mechanic appears. Says Simon than * Guitar Hero— *, which prompts the player to press buttons or triggers at any tempo or rhythm according to prompts. The goal is to be clear, not right.