In a nutshell: Remember the 2D platformer Super Mario Bros.? Now imagine a farmland goat as the main character and all the 2D platforming action taking place on a static level screen filled with death traps and switch-based/block puzzles.
Ever had one of those days where you feel instantly smart after solving a dire puzzle that stumps you turn after turn, only to have the solution blindsiding you when you least expect it? The esoteric-named Escape Goat 2 contains a multitude number of those days wrapped up in a US$9.99 digital package.
You play a purple goat who has to rescue his flock of sheep that’s spread out one by one in a number of devilishly laid-out traps. From the stained glass presentation of the map to the holistic 90s PC-style soundtrack that’s part Sorcerian and part Jazz Jackrabbit, the game will entrance players into its pretty world.
As with all carefully-crafted puzzle games, the story takes a backseat. Your main focus is to figure out how to get your goat from point A to point B. The stages themselves are filled with pitfalls, trip switches, obstructing blocks, and grim reaper-like foes that shoot flames when your four-legged body is in sight. You even get to manipulate tesla coils and the navigational pattern of a bone dragon construct later down the line, adding more color in the puzzle-solving palette.
Players will have their brains wracked with variations of platforming and puzzle-solving; it starts off light as you figure out your goat’s moves and platforming physics. As you reach Room 4 and proceed on, the game starts pulling all the stops in making you throw out your keyboard or joypad in taxing frustration. Exploding barricades, falling crushing blocks, and possible lock-out situations will be ever-present to keep you on your hooves.
The levels are paced well; some require more thought and methodical approach than others, like the ones requiring the mouse and its special teleporting and launching powers. Later stages will test your platforming reflexes more, with the occasional red herring tossed in to purposely stray you from the level’s only solution. But it’s all done in a fair and minimalistic manner; there’s no hand-holding needed for players to get into the platforming groove.
The titular goat is limited to a few moves: a charging ram and a double jump. He controls just fine; like a few tiers away from the precision emanating from Shigeru Miyamoto’s plumber. Along the way, you gain access to the game’s main tool; a mouse that can crawl through tiny spaces, walk on walls, and flip switches from afar.
Halfway through the excursion, the tiny rodent can wear power-inducing garments and use magical pedestals for extra puzzle-solving abilities. These include trading positions on the fly and leaping vertically to making clones of itself to sit atop additional pressure plates.
Of course, there’s also the issue of failing in the middle of solving a puzzle; one mistimed leap or charge and it’s back to square one. This isn’t so much game-breaking as it is a minor inconvenience; restarts load up faster in a blink of an eye, making you wiser and more alert than usual.
It’s not exactly setting itself apart from the rest of the indie PC 2D platforming pack. Still, Escape Goat 2 humbly does what it needs to do: keep a platforming fan’s passionate fire stoking with good design.
Worth playing for: The soundtrack and artwork, particularly if you had PC-gaming roots in the early 90s.
Watch out for: Certain end-stage puzzles that’ll tax both your reflexes and brain work.
In closing: If you want to satiate your capra-induced obsession with something other than Goat Simulator, this 2D jaunt can help.