The Artful Escape Review – A cosmic trip into the creative process

The Artful Escape comes from Beethoven & Dinosaur, a brand-new studio led by Johnny Galvatron, a former musician. That musical background is useful as the Artful Escape has a huge focus on its main protagonist and his music.

The opening of The Artful Escape focuses on the main character, Francis Vendetti, preparing for a tribute show for his uncle, Johnny Vendetti, while standing on an overlook. While he tries to play folk songs, he seems unable to perform but releases an amazing space opera guitar solo. Clearly, there’s something yearning to be free.

This is hardly the first time a game has tackled the creative process. Games have talked about the creation of music, writing, movies, and even video games. But rather than wax on the topic insufferably, The Artful Escape instead uses the topic as a springboard for a larger story.

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Xbox Game Pass September 2021 Review – What a roller coaster

It’s the middle of September, so it’s time to look at the last month of Xbox Game Pass titles with the September 2021 review. 

On-screen are images that Microsoft has released of their top games which we’ll be covering, but that’s not good enough for me.  I’ve played everything released on the service for PC over the last month, and it’s time to talk about the good and the bad.  

I’ve spent at least two to four hours with most of these games, so I should be able to give you a good overview of what is worth checking out and why.  I hope you’re ready because we’re going to cover 19 games this month, and yeah, that’s a lot.   Let’s get started with…

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Humble Choice September 2021 Review – What was that?

I’m Kinglink and it’s September 2021, which means it’s time for the Humble Choice September 2021 Review. 

We have 13 games and, as always, I played each game for an hour and now am here to tell you all about them.  Let’s just get started.

PGA Tour 2K21. I think a lot of people are expecting me to tear into this game.  But that’s not what I do,  PGA Tour 2K21 is a golf game and that could be my review. It perfectly bookends every point I would make about this game. 

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Dodgeball Academia Review – Retro AND Modern

There has been a recent resurgence in all forms of media where creators want to repackage 90s nostalgia to sell to customers while doing minimal work. Whether it’s a classic television show. a popular movie, or just the aesthetics, this is a common approach to creating new content while not giving the audience anything new or different than the original content.

Dodgeball Academia could be in that category. It’s clear the game is heavily inspired by a classic NES title, Super Dodgeball and it would be easy for someone to create a clone of that classic game and sell it for twenty or thirty dollars.

That’s not what Dodgeball Academia is about. While Pocket Trap, the developers of Dodgeball Academia are fans of Super Dodgeball, Dodgeball Academia is more of a love letter or an homage to a classic title showing what can happen when nostalgia is only the first step of a project. 

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12 Minutes Review – Quite a bit longer than that.

12 Minutes is the latest game published by Annapurna Interactive. It’s a strange narrative adventure involving the player repeating the same time frame in a Groundhog Day-style loop.

Players start by coming home late from work when their wife has cooked dessert for them. After a nice average evening at home, a cop knocks at the door, and when you or your wife open it, the cop will quickly arrest you and your wife, and ends up striking or choking the player to death. And the game restarts.

This is an abrupt and disturbing scene, but it’s exactly what’s in store for the player in 10 minutes increments, each time loop usually ends with a horrific end, and the player is left to wonder how they can fix their predicament.

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Xbox Game Pass August 2021 Reviews – We begin with a strong month

I’m Kinglink and it’s time for the Xbox Game Pass August 2021 Review. 

This is something new on my channel, if you’re already familiar with my work, you know I review the Humble Choice the first week of every month and talk about who might enjoy which games and if it’s worth picking up.

Xbox Game Pass is a bit different, it’s a subscription service where players can play any game on it and games get released throughout the month.  I’ll do my best to cover the major releases as well as a variety of other games.  My channel is focused on the PC platform, so that’s the platform of choice here.  

For these videos, I’ll be doing short reviews for each title, and I’ll talk about the most notable and unique games that I have found.  These aren’t intended to be full reviews, however, unlike the Humble Choice and its time constraint, I’ll continue playing beyond the first hour for these titles when possible. 

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Omno Review – A serene journey of discovery

Omno is a lovely game. Rather than teach the player from the first moment, it promotes a sense of exploration. The main character is a silent onion-headed avatar, in a new land, filled with creatures and puzzles just waiting to be discovered.

Omno evokes comparisons with Journey due to the style, and gameplay. It’s a serene journey that avoids combat, while still giving the player a fantastic sense of wonder as they explore each new area and land. It combines music, graphics, and gameplay to evoke the sense of the unknown throughout.

Omno’s focus is on minimalism, using only a few words to teach the player the basic mechanics of the game, whether it be a button press required or a new ability. Throughout the game, players will earn four different abilities, such as a fast dash allowing players to cover distances in moments.

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Humble Choice August 2021 Review – Is this the best yet?

I’m Kinglink and that’s right, it’s time for the Humble Choice August 2021 Review. 

It’s my birthday month, and as a present, I got a Humble Choice with 2 games I already own.  But that’s not a bad thing because they’re two of my favorite games and I get a chance to discuss them.  It may even have changed my opinion on one. 

As always I play the Humble Choice games for one hour, and compile my opinions, who I think should play them or enjoy them and who should skip.  With that said, let’s get started with the first game I already own, and the biggest game this month. 

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Tell Me Why Review – Dontnod tackles a difficult subject

Tell Me Why is from Dontnod Studios.  After their success with Life Is Strange, I was curious what other realms Dontnod would explore, and it seems the apple hasn’t fallen that far from the tree. 

Dontnod’s newest game is once again an episodic narrative game with characters who have special powers, deal with heavy issues, and feels almost like it could have been titled Life is Strange 3. 

The story revolves around a pair of twins Alyson and Tyler who are given a special power to share memories.  Yet again, this power is neither explored nor explained.  It’s just a storytelling element for the game to explore previous events.

It’s probably important to mention that Tyler is transgender, being born a female, and is now a male in the story. Yet the only reason I feel compelled to bring it up is due to how often the game pushes the issue as if it wants people to notice how progressive this is.  Dontnod even released a FAQ regarding this, and the fact is they handled the topic well, exactly how I hope other studios treat transgender characters.  

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Emily is Away <3 Review – Returning to the well for the third time

Emily is Away ❤ is the third installment in the Emily is Away series.  Once again players are taken into the world of retro chat agents with a compelling and interesting look at the world and story. 

In Emily is Away <3, the developers have taken a step forward and migrated from the AIM parody platform of the first two games to a spoof on Facebook, called Facenook.  While a majority of the game is focused on the Facenook Messenger, there’s a decent look at Facenook and the experience of using it to form a social circle.

And once again, Emily is Away ❤ is heavy with nostalgia for a bygone era of the early, less commercial Facebook.   It’s the beginning of the social media craze.  Where Emily is Away, and Emily is Away Too stoked memories of chatting on AOL’s messenger, Emily is Away ❤ can effortlessly bring those same feelings to the surface.

Nostalgia however will only go so far though a majority of Americas will likely be familiar with Facebook, the messenger on the app is perhaps a different story.  The fact that so much of Emily is Away ❤ is based on the original form of Facebook as well may cause some issues for the nostalgia, but that might be overcome by the story. 

Emily is Away ❤ delves into the deep interpersonal relationship between a variety of people.  Where the first game focused on conversations with someone named Emily and how AIM kept people connected yet at arm’s reach, Emily is Away Too added in a love triangle to develop a more interesting and deeper look when talking to two characters, Emily and Evelyn.

Emily is Away ❤ goes all out, and rather than just use a pair of characters, Emily is Away ❤ seems to develop a whole social group.  There are at least seven characters that the player can interact with and have conversations with.   

Though Emily is Away ❤ remains stuck with the original game’s one major issue.  Players can’t really “talk” to anyone in the game, rather players can choose from three different messages to decide what their response will be.  Players then will mash the keyboard to pretend to be typing it out or turn on Autotype, but overall it’s not exactly a deep experience. 

However, this is also where Emily is Away ❤ starts to have new issues.  Where the original two titles were limited to just a messenger app with the expectation that you would focus there, Facenook, the in-universe Facebook equivalent, has pages you can flip through on each character.  But also the Facenook Messenger is rather slow, with responses appearing about every twenty or thirty seconds instead of five.   So much of the game is either pretending to type a response, waiting to hit enter, or just waiting for the next message to pop up. 

While Emily is Away ❤ is broken up into five chapters, it was only around the middle of chapter three where I started to struggle with the response speed, and yet there was no way to change it. 

Still, when the messages arrived, Emily is Away ❤ delivers that same intimate feeling the first two titles had, where you feel like you’re able to connect with people through the game, the writing is top-notch and can manipulate people into feeling that this is more than a game, even as it’s a fully scripted experience. 

The intimacy though leads to the second major issue with Emily is Away <3.  Ultimately this is a story-driven game, and while players will want to ‘win’ the game and earn the best ending, potentially wanting a deeper more meaningful relationship with their chosen paramour… that’s not to be. 

There are multiple endings possible in Emily is Away <3, however, a “best” ending isn’t available from the start of the game.  According to sources online, players will have to complete one playthrough and then attempt a second playthrough of the opposite character due to a choice between Emily and Evelyn still existing in this title. 

The issue is that this comes after approximately 4 hours, and if players choose to chase the other character, they’re in for around the same length of time.  That long twenty-second delay between messages seems to be permanently forced on players, and suddenly there’s less reason to explore Facenook even with some new characters becoming available. 

Ultimately Emily is Away <3’s biggest flaw is how much the developer asks of players to just experience the majority of the game.  There are five playthroughs required just to get the major endings, approximately four additional smaller endings possible.  But Emily is Away ❤ makes it hard for players to want to return to the game to experience the alternate pathways due to the experience provided.

It’s not that Emily is Away ❤ is a poor game.  I had a consistent flashback to feelings that I was involved in romantic discussions with people online, the same experience that the previous two titles provoked, but where the previous titles made me want to experience more of the game, Emily is Away ❤ left me more annoyed by the mechanics presented, than enjoying the experience that had just occurred.

It’s a shame, but I feel like I had to force myself grinding through the slow messages just to chase a better ending, because ultimately, a little different text isn’t enough of a reward to replay such a long game, nor would I want to replay it three more times for different results.  

It’s the reason I won’t be returning and the reason I can’t recommend this title, even while I enjoyed myself for the first playthrough. 

I give Emily is Away ❤ an arbitrary 


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