Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

The most bizarre premise of any game I played was that of 2007’s role play title Eternal Sonata. As it begins, Frédéric Chopin lies on his deathbed, 39 years old, succumbing to tuberculosis. In his dying state, he dreams of a story of disease, rebellion and sacrifice in a living fantasy world. Here, the player controls an anime-feeling Chopin and teams up with a movie of brave teenagers named after musical terms – Polka, Falsetto, Claves. However, this wildly imaginative imagination only leads to a loose exercise in dungeon crawling, broken up by dry educational interludes that tell the story of the composer’s life, recorded by his melancholy nights.

It’s hard to understand how this eccentric game was ever green light, but as a teenager I was fascinated by its ambitious story, which dramatized the idea of ​​accepting mortality as a musical epic. The story came to mind this week when I played two recent releases that also deal with artists. These are not tired exercises in debate whether games are art, but rather thoughtful explorations of how we use art to reform the world around us, and also explores the crippling effect that self-doubt and social expectations can have on the artist’s creativity.

“Have you ever made the top?” asks a mysterious girl under a tall autumn tree at the opening of The Artificial Escape. The player character Francis shakes his head and replies, “Was too scared to try.” They climb together. As a budding musician, Francis feels oppressed by the legacy of his uncle, a Dylan-like figure whose painfully cool picture of posters pops up all over their small town in Colorado.

In ‘The Artful Escape’, the player character feels overshadowed by their Dylan-like uncle

“To pluck a folk ballad over the toil of a miner’s life holds (X)”, the game orders wryly, but such fair protest songs are nothing like the melodies that Francis feels flowing through his veins. No, he wants to let go of his inner psychological rocker, to let giant, chromatic guitar riffs into the air. On the eve of a concert in memory of his uncle, Francis is kidnapped by musical aliens and finds himself on The Cosmic Lung, a spaceship full of curious alien partygoers, where he begins to shake off the Neil Young personality and his inner Ziggy Stardust embrace. .

The game is a simple platform player offers little challenge, but it has visual flair to spare and the ingenious inclusion of a button you can press at any time to start in a crying guitar solo (I kept that in mind for almost the entire game). With hilarious vocal turns from actors Carl Weathers, Lena Headey, Jason Schwartzman and Mark Strong, The Artificial Escape is more captivating than a story than a game, but it resonates as an unforgettable fable about finding your true voice.

‘Eternal Sonata’ explores Chopin’s inner life on his deathbed

The Artificial Escape made me wonder if there are games about creating art that allow the player to practice creativity as part of the game. This led me to the charming indie title Chicory: A colorful story, released over the summer. In his world, there is a chosen artist who uses a magic paintbrush and is responsible for ensuring that the landscapes and villages are a riot of color. You are not playing the titular “Wielder” Chicory, but her caretaker, who is forced to pick up the magic wax when the world suddenly drains in color and Chicory is nowhere to be found.

The game’s world and characters are drawn in thick cartoon lines that you can color to your heart’s content. The process of coloring objects and deciding on color schemes strikes the same soothing place that has been identified in recent years by modern adult coloring books, but in Sigorei your brush is not just decorative – it’s a core part of play. You solve puzzles by painting, rather than fighting, drawing lines to lighten the darkness in caves or using color to make plants bloom that will help you on your way.

As you traverse the game’s cozy landscape, the map gradually fills with the colors you leave in your aftermath. Every brushstroke is permanent, so when you return to an area that was visited a long time ago, the world remembers you and asks you to think about the traces you left behind.

Sigorei walks out in a darker story than I expected. We learn that the title character is depressed, paralyzed by society’s expectations of her art, and we see how she endures a painful panic attack. Just as the protagonist must accept the responsibility to restore color to the world despite a lack of training, so Sigorei must learn to overcome her anxiety and believe in herself again. We are working, imagining the game, but when we create art, we imagine how the world can be seen differently, how it can still be recreated.

‘The Artful Escape’ is now out on Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S and PC, and is currently available on Xbox Game Pass; ‘Chicory: A Colorful Tale’ is out now on PC, Mac, PS4 and PS5

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