The first Escape Goat was, for all intents and purposes, the last great Xbox Live Indie Game. A modest little platformer with some fantastic puzzle design, Escape Goat fit the platform perfectly. Magical Time Bean were on the short list of quality developers for the service, and with Microsoft's fundamental abandonment of Xbox Live Indie Games, it only got more exciting to see where developers like Magical Time Bean would go. Where they've decided go next is expanding upon Escape Goat with a sequel, which turns out to be a great idea.
Escape Goat 2 is a solid iteration of the formula, and with vastly improved production values, making the first Escape Goat look like a demo of greater things to come in comparison. But for people already familiar with that first title, Escape Goat 2 takes far too long to establish itself as a refreshed game experience, and the lack of core additions to your little purple goat's toolbox made for an overly familiar escape.
The premise is simple: you are a goat and you have to escape from the prison that you find yourself in. Escape Goat 2 dabbles with the minimalist storytelling of the first game, but with similar lackluster results. The air of mystery hangs on every word spoken by the characters in the game, but lacks any meaningful substance to back up that secrecy. Escape Goat 2 is much more interested in the gameplay experience than telling a story, to much better results
Escape Goat 2 has a very similar feeling to the first game, which is great considering the nuanced platforming experience. Your little purple goat controls perfectly, ramming to-and-fro with ease. In addition, you will eventually acquire the company of a tiny mouse which you can throw around to help you solve the various puzzles that await you.
Some of the obstacles that you’ll encounter include the likes of spinning saw blades, distressingly placed switches, reapers who throw fireballs, and a couple of other hazards. Unfortunately, it’s all mostly everything that you encountered before in the first Escape Goat title. The vast majority of Escape Goat 2's levels recycle a lot of the same design elements that perplexed me in the first game, but which now I easily breezed past, disappointingly so.
That’s not to say that there’s no new tricks up Magical Time Bean’s sleeves. There are a few new tricks to add to your mouse friend’s repertoire in addition to his dapper little wizard cap which lets you swap places between him and the goat. But these tools appear infrequently in comparison to how many more times I was collecting that familiar little hat, with Escape Goat 2 never mixing these new abilities up with the old to create some truly sinister situations.
But despite getting the lackluster feeling of playing in the same ol’ toy box again, Escape Goat 2’s puzzle design is still very strong. They are well-thought out machinations which push-and-pull you this way and that, teasing you with the answer, usually lying in plain sight while you’re hopping about elsewhere, making things much too complicated. But instead of making you feel stupid for this, I always felt like a smart little purple goat man for figuring out these sometimes elusive puzzles, especially the trickier ones at the end which finally introduce a meaningful new obstacle for you to conquer, relighting those synapses that hadn’t burned so bright since the first game.
The one aspect of the game that doesn’t feel old and recycled though is Escape Goat 2’s production values. While the dark pixel artstyle of the first game had a cute charm to it, the colorful new one which replicates the intense hues of stain glass is really gorgeous stuff. Backed by a larger, stronger soundtrack which tackles similar musical themes of fantastical whimsy, but in a much more well-rounded, comprehensive fashion. These elements helped relieve the feeling of Escape Goat 2’s overly familiar design, even if not completely.
But if you’re one of those people that never touched the first Escape Goat, then its sequel should be a much more exciting experience. There’s no denying that the puzzle design is still as strong here, but as a veteran of the series, it all felt much too familiar to me. If it weren’t for the myriad of secrets to uncover and radically reworked production values, especially the stunning new art direction, Escape Goat 2 would feel more like an expansion pack than a full-fledged sequel. In too many ways it still does.
But more of a very good thing isn’t the worst thing in the world, and this very reason makes Escape Goat 2 a puzzle worth solving.
FOUR OUT OF FIVE
(A great game that largely succeeds, but stumbles in some notable ways.)