By: Justin Redmon
When I was younger, one of my neighbors had a goat. His name was Geoffrey if I recall correctly. Long story short, Geoffrey was kind of an idiot. He was cross eyed for starters and was prone to giving you the stare down when you least expected it; even worse considering you could never really tell if he was looking at you or something 10 feet to your left.
Perhaps his favorite activity, though, was regularly challenging inanimate objects to tests of head-butting dominance. Some of his favorites including a tree, a parked car, a doghouse and, perhaps his most hated and recurring foe, a tire swing.
Casting Geoffrey aside, the goat who stars in Escape Goat 2 by MagicalTimeBean seems much more capable, solving crazy puzzles to escape from a tower filled with traps. And although Geoffrey wasn’t the smartest, Escape Goat 2 makes leaps and bounds in the efforts of all goat-kind.
I never really thought I’d have to describe the process of controlling a goat, but luckily Escape Goat 2 provides an almost no-fuss setup. Movement and double jumping are pretty standard with the only real whistle to your base movements being a short-range dash that doubles as a headbutt. This lets you clear small gaps with ease and push objects in the environment.
Past your goaty-self, you also control a little mouse buddy you can toss around to walk on ceilings and walls to activate switches. He becomes a much bigger part of puzzles later when you start getting powerups like the Magic Hat, which lets you switch places with him in the level. Maybe the only gripe I have is that sometimes precise platforming can be a little iffy. Controlling yourself after coming down from a jump can feel just a bit off when the game calls for more exact landings, though this particular frustration occurs so rarely few will probably even come to realize it.
In presentation, Escape Goat 2 pulls no punches, representing its world in a highly detailed, hand drawn style that’s just a treat to look at. Even more impressive is the hub-world level select screen, displayed in a stained glass mosaic that slowly fills up upon completion of stages. Each hub is themed differently so you never get tired of what you’re looking at, and smaller effects like fireballs shot by enemies or the subtle lighting engine add just enough charm that you can’t help but be enamored by it all.
Along with its looks, Escape Goat 2 has music down pat as well, with some absolutely fantastic tracks scattered throughout, and each new hub getting its own unique theme. You can tell a lot of care was put into how the game presents itself, and it’s an effort that doesn’t go unappreciated.
Escape Goat 2 places you in the sho… er… hooves of a goat trapped in a tower, with no choice but to climb looking for a way to escape. Early on, you have your normal puzzler fare: go here, press this, jump up there. Reaching the exit is pretty much all you’ll need to be concerned with in the starting levels. The hub world adds some nice variety to the selection, however, with every world adding new mechanics on top of old ones, slowly teaching you the game’s complexities without it being overbearing. Plus, at the same time, adding variety and ramping difficulty up quite nicely to where nothing ever felt stale or repetitive.
When all is said and done, Escape Goat 2 really has two parts: the “main” game, which accounts for about one-third of the game’s content and is all that’s needed to technically beat the game, and a second half that unlocks afterwards, containing the rest.
At first, I was finding things to be somewhat easy (perhaps too easy) and just when I was starting to hit a lull in gameplay, BOOM, the game delivers a solid kick to the chest and unlocks the post-game content, revealing hidden doorways and cut off hubs connected to previous worlds that are head and shoulders above the main game in terms of actual puzzle content.
These levels rely heavily on your understanding of the game’s mechanics, with enough enemy manipulation, power-up usage and strict timed platforming to make your head spin. The thing is though, I never really felt I was hitting a wall or crushed under the difficulty, as the main game left me starving for the real challenge, and finally reaching levels with some real meat to them was incredibly satisfying.
What’s most impressive about Escape Goat 2 is that there doesn’t seem to be any downtime like there is in other puzzle games where the challenge or variety gets a little stale. Using a masterful hand and great level design, it switches between twitch platforming and puzzle-heavy levels with an ease and grace that’s to be envied, creating an experience that’s the perfect amount of give and take. There’s no shortage of moments of brilliance for solving a puzzle on the first go, either, or the satisfying conclusion to a real head scratcher. Puzzle lovers look no further; Escape Goat 2 is truly what you’ve been searching for.
With smart level design and tons of brilliance packed all in one, Escape Goat 2 just might be the greatest goat-based game you’ll play all year.