Escape Goat 2 is a nightmare. A beautiful, mind-bending, fulfilling nightmare.
Magical Time Bean took everything from Escape Goat, originally released on the Xbox 360 in 2011, and improved upon it all. The most obvious changes are the great new art style, and the large amount of new puzzles. But those are not the only reasons that make this sequel so astounding. Underneath the great new art style lies an ensnaring puzzle platformer that is one of the best of the genre, and definitely one of the best games starring a goat.
Escape Goat 2 starts with one goat’s simple goal: To save his animal friends from a place they once called sanctuary. While the goat and his mouse friend try to figure out the mystery of the tower, they encounter all kinds of things that want to kill them at every turn. At the end of each section, a cryptic message reveals more about the fates and desires of the fallen animals. Escape Goat 2 does a great job of never revealing its full hand. Each tease leads you to pursue more information to help you decipher this booby trap of a world.
All of that wouldn’t be possible if the mechanics behind the platformer weren’t tight and precise. The duo, a goat and a mouse, have to figure their way through mind-bending 2D puzzle levels, each one more challenging than the last. Magical Time Bean is able to produce quite a challenge from simple mechanics such as running, jumping, and headbutting, but a lot of the genius of the puzzles come from the mouse character. His abilities include multi-mouse, a swap mechanic and several others that make him as important as the main goat character. Although there is only a small variety of fairly simple abilities, a lot of options emerge as the compounding levels offer increasingly complex puzzles, but for every stage there is really only a single workable solution that you must discover through trial and error.
Escape Goat 2 is a very cruel game. One hit from the hooded enemies will result in death, and death is a foregone conclusion. Death even becomes a major factor of succeeding in the game, because in death sometimes the secrets of a level are revealed. Since one hit results in death, memorizing the flow of a level is key in order to escape without a scratch. The constant terror of death results in a lot of white knuckle-clenching moments in Escape Goat 2, but they allow for the great satisfaction of finally succeeding after a series of failures. You might be tempted to bash your goat horns against a problem repeatedly, but you will get nowhere in Escape Goat 2 without trying new solutions. Sometimes leaving the game for a couple minutes and then returning to the level with a fresh mindset results in success.
Magical Time Bean creates a world full of secrets but also offers the choice of circumventing the pursuit of the goat’s friends in order to simply finish the essential puzzles. The information learned from conquering the levels is crucial in achieving the end game with a slightly easier time. “Slightly” being the key word, as a lot of the end game levels supply a substantial challenge even to veterans of the genre.
The major upgrade from Escape Goat to Escape Goat 2 is the aesthetics. Everything from the music, art style and writing hits the mark with flying colors. Ian Stocker provides a soundtrack perfect for a puzzle platformer, one where the songs never get tiring and fit the themes of each unique world. A great combination of art design and music composition escalate the atmosphere surrounding the platforming mechanics.
When I was done with Escape Goat 2, I didn’t want to leave. Magical Time Bean proves that sequels are oftentimes better than the originals, because of the experience gained from making the original combined with a more focused approach to the core game design. Escape Goat 2 hooked me early and never let me go, because of its mysterious nature. There are not a lot of games that star a less likely duo than a goat and a mouse, but that makes the game so endearing to both the eye and the touch.
Escape Goat 2 is out today – Mach 24th, 2014 – for $9.99 on PC, Mac and Linux. Double Fine produced the game, and it is available for purchase through the Steam store, Humble Bundle, GoG.com or through the Escape Goat 2 website.