Game Pile: Escape Goat 2


Escape Goat 2 is a puzzle platformer about playing a purple supernaturally empowered goat navigating a tower composed of 80% traps, made by Magical Time Bean games. Along the way, this goat will jump, headbutt, and jump again through about eightish hours of traps in a quest to rescue your friendly sheep, convince the tower’s ghosts that your quest is noble and good, and escape the tower with your little ratty friend.

On The Hoof

Without any greater context for the previous game, Escape Goat 2 is just a puzzle platformer that has about nine to ten hours of play time if you’re at my skill level, and very little inherent replay value. This is ten dollars for about ten hours, which is about a dollar an hour. If you, say, purchased Far Cry 3 for thirty dollars, the conversion rate works out at about five hours per dollar spent. Using that metric, I can clearly say, then, that Escape Goat 2 is a better game than Far Cry 3, because those ten hours were that much more fun.

Sometimes you can only recognise an experience by contrasting its elements. Escape Goat 2 is funny and sad, it’s frustrating and it’s elating, it’s goofy and gloomy and it does all these things at the same time. This is a game with a rat in a fancy hat and the ghost of a duck and it’s worth your time to play if you have any interest at all in puzzle platformers.

… And?

Oh, right, you’re curious as to how Escape Goat 2 compares to Escape Goat 1?

Well, it looks different. It’s a high-def game now with a different visual style but the same charm. In the previous game, the sprites weren’t detailed enough to show you much of the goat, or the rat. Most of what they showed you had to be implied by shapes, as is the way of the best forms of sprite art. In this game, the detail level is higher, but the animations aren’t just straight-up ports. Instead, now the goat has cute little animations, as does the rat. If you put the rat down, it doesn’t just land asleep, it sits for a moment, then curls up and rests. If you’re in a safe spot and you’ve opened the door, leaving the goat alone results in the goat curling up and going to sleep. The animations are lovely, as are the backgrounds.

The tone is also subtly different. In the first game you were trying to escape a dangerous environment that hated you, and you were under no obligation to escape with everyone trapped inside the dungeon with you. You started in duress, and escaped. In Escape Goat 2, however, the first thing you do is break in to the tower, to go after your friends. In a game with such minimal storytelling, this gesture shows you something of the goat. Why would the goat, who had escaped, return to a prison, break in, in order to break out? This action creates a nobility about the goat and rat, which made me feel more like a little ungulate superhero.

If you’re familiar with Biblical imagery, you might know that commonly, sheep are used to represent virtue, while goats, when they show up, usually represent a worldliness. In this context, playing a goat who was rescuing sheep from their own naivete and traps that ensnared the mind from this absolutely terrifying array of death-traps puts a fascinating metaphor in place. On the other hand, I am pretty sure there was no deliberate agenda in the storytelling. This is a game about a noble goat rescuing silly sheep with the help of their snazzily-dressed rat.

Ultimately, when I first finished Escape Goat I was exhausted and frustrated and didn’t appreciate what it meant when I’d played an entire game in one nine hour stretch. It was a great game, a lovely and fun game, a game that was able to hold my attention that long, and that well. I think the main source of my bitterness with it at the end were those times I had to run to Youtube to check and see if I was completely barking up the wrong tree with the solution to a puzzle. That didn’t happen this time.

Conveyance And Iteration

Iteration is the way in which a game makes you repeat an experience. Good iteration uses this to make the experience feel risky, to increase the feeling of accomplishment, and to refine skills the player does not realise they are developing. In Escape Goat 2, you will repeat the opening seconds of levels again and again and again and again and in the process, you will refine your precision jumping, your timing, and that prickle-on-the-back-of-your-neck tension that these games thrive on.

Conveyance is the way the game keeps you playing. Conveyance in puzzle platformers is a challenge that most developers never quite master, and even Escape Goat failed at in places. Whenever a player gives up in frustration, that’s a failure of conveyance. Whenever a player finds a puzzle they cannot solve after repeated attempts, no matter how they try, that is a failure of conveyance.

This is where Escape Goat 2 supersedes Escape Goat. The puzzles presented by Escape Goat did occasionally run into wall-banging territory, where there were basically no signs as to whether or not you’re on the right track. You try and try and try and find yourself nowhere. This is a failure of both iteration and conveyance – the game fails to refine your skills, and builds you to a point where you’re more likely to give up.

Escape Goat 2 is better at both of these elements. In Escape Goat 2, levels are often made up of two or three related pieces that you have to navigate or trigger correctly. Now in some games, you’ll work out a trick in the first piece that you then have to iterate for the second piece then master for the third. In Escape Goat 2, you may instead only have to do that trick ONCE – and then the other two parts are completely different ways to interact with it.

The game keeps introducing new mechanics, but doesn’t ever have to explain it. Instead, the game demonstrates its mechanical elements, it shows you how it behaves, and then asks you to learn from what it shows you. Then the mechanics move on, and introduce new elements. The minimalistic tutorial is an absolute jewel in this game.

Verdict

You can buy Escape Goat 2 through its own website, through Good Old Games, and through Steam.

Buy it if:

  • You like puzzle platformers.
  • I’m serious, if you like puzzle platformers, you will like this.

Avoid it if:

  • You have some sort of agenda against rats in hats.
  • You can’t play reflex-based, precision-timing games.

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