Of all the games I played at PAX Australia over the past weekend, one struck me due to its incredibly beautiful art style; hand-drawn alien landscapes full of bright pinks and lilacs, with highlights of cyan, yellow, and all the other colours you’d expect to see at an intergalactic laser light show. The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti is the first game by Melbourne-based developer Beethoven & Dinosaur, led by musician, filmmaker, writer, and all-around creative Johnny Galvatron. It’s a music-based, narrative driven, quasi-platformer involving massive-scale, operatic guitar solos and jamming with otherworldly creatures. Despite a failed Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, Artful Escape is on-track to release in a dramatic explosion of pink and gold. Francis Vendetti is the nephew of a dead legendary folk singer, Johnson Vendetti, and forever sees himself in his uncle’s shadows; crowds expect Francis to be a younger version of Johnson. To avoid this, Francis decides to shed his name and identity and develop himself a new one. Upon recommendation from the galaxy’s premiere laser show artist Violetta, he leaves Earth and travels across galaxies and dimensions, into “a place of alchemists, wanderers, naked space gods, hallucinogens, horizonless wonder and incredible danger.” The dialogue choices you make throughout the game determine the persona that Francis eventually decides on. I wonder how much of the narrative was inspired by Galvatron’s own experiences–Johnny Galvatron was the frontman of the well known Australian synth rock band The Galvatrons in the late 00s. I played about 15 minutes worth of Artful Escape at PAX, open-mouthed just about the entire time. If you ask me, pink isn’t a colour we see enough of in video games, and Artful Escape is flooded with it. In my time with the game, I jammed with a couple of massive space creatures–from the demo, jamming is essentially Simon Says with beautiful aesthetics, in which each button plays a note in a guitar solo. The sound from Francis’ guitar is epic, as is the original score which, as I can tell, was composed by Galvatron and multiple ARIA-winning Josh Abrahams. The score acted as a perfect backdrop for the drugged-out world, giving the game a profound emotional impact; not something I expected from a game about an intergalactic guitarist. The gameplay in the Artful Escape demo was simplistic and non-challenging, but essentially served as a medium through which the incredible dialogue, graphics, and music could be effectively showcased. Francis can jump, double jump, and at the end of a double jump can air-walk while playing guitar to hover a small bit more. There’s also other ways of moving that show up every now and then–the demo showcased snowboarding down the side of a mountain in front of a gorgeous pink-hued vista, and floating through laser beams by playing guitar. The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti was the first game I played at PAX all weekend (I had the honour of being the first person to play it, ever), and one of the ones that stuck with me the most. It’s clearly a labour of love from Galvatron; after meeting him, I’m not sure that anyone else would’ve been able to come up with a game anywhere near what Artful Escape is shaping up to be. I even admit to getting a little bit misty eyed during some of the more cinematic segments–not because it was sad or anything, just that the combination of music and visuals is really sublime. It’s aimed to release Q1 of 2017 for PC and Mac, having been Greenlit on Steam, as well as a tentative view towards a possible console port later. This is one I’ll be keeping both eyes on as it nears release, without a doubt.