November 9, 2011 22 Comments
UPDATE: Escape Goat is now 80 Microsoft Points
Escape Goat is a 2D puzzle-platformer in an 8-bit suit of armor. By Christ, I haven’t played enough of those since starting Indie Gamer Chick. No, I mean that. I really haven’t. Sorry if that sounded sarcastic. Maybe I’m just lucky, but when I play those kind of games, they tend to be good. So I actually looked forward to Escape Goat, because it looked like my kind of game. Did it live up to expectations, or was it pulling the wool over my eyes?
Escape Goat features 64 single-screen levels where you must get the goat to the door. Often the door is locked, so you have to fetch one or more keys scattered throughout the screen. Early on, you pick up a helper mouse that you launch to help activate switches. If you pick up a magic hat, you can switch places with the mouse in a cool “travel by a comet that breaks every brick in its path” method. As the goat, you can double jump and use a dash that can break some bricks, goats being known for their gravity-defying leaping and ability to befriend mice.
The controls are tight and very responsive, so I’ll focus on the puzzles. I don’t know why I’m constantly amazed at how creatively designed puzzles can be on this platform. I mean, one person comes up with this stuff? For reals? To see stages with this level of inspiration is impressive. I don’t even think I could do a crossword puzzle correctly even if someone goated me into it.
Levels typically involve hitting switches that rearrange blocks to open up passages. You’ll have to fling your mouse buddy through narrow passages, or make him rest on a switch while you hop around collecting stuff. Time playing the game is usually spent experimenting with a board for a minute or two before the “eureka!” moment happens and you figure out how to solve the stage. Sometimes this boils down to trial and error, but never in a frustrating or tedious way. Of course, there’s also moments where I’m 90% sure that I’ve beaten a level in a way the developer did not intend, but that’s par for the course in pretty much any puzzle game.
There’s a few things that I didn’t care for in Escape Goat. The game uses a Mega Man style “pick whichever level you want” system. Having this in place meant there was little to no progression in puzzle difficulty. I was able to breeze through some entire sections in under ten minutes. Sometimes this could be chalked up to the types of puzzles used. The game is at it’s best when it uses Rube-Goldberg style logic puzzles. When it relies on digital dexterity, the challenge becomes almost non-existent. Sometimes stages use a mixture of both, and that’s where it really shines. The variety is much appreciated, and at no point over the course of the game was it ever boring. If only I could say the same thing about this review, but like a goat farmed in South Africa this review is a bit of a Boer.
Oh, and there’s a level editor too. I never use those, because I’m about as creatively bankrupt as Hollywood these days. Still, I figured I should bring it up before people come to my house with pitchforks and torches. I guess I should be used to Rubing people the wrong way, but still, you people need a nanny.
Overall, Escape Goat was pretty damn good. A leaderboard contender for sure. It’s clever, punchy, and controls absolutely flawlessly. It hits all the right notes for what a puzzle-platformer should be. I’m not sure what exactly a goat did to land itself in the pokey, but games don’t have to make sense. No, seriously, what did it do? I have to know. Mountain climbing without a permit? Butt-heads with a cop? Fall asleep in a busy intersection? I bet that’s it. I hear the courts are pretty strict on kid napping.
Note: Within five minutes of this review going up I had three people tell me they were mad because the game does not auto-save. I beat Escape Goat in one play session, and never needed to save. So please don’t forget to save your progress. Hopefully a patch to fix this is on the way.
240 Microsoft Points ran out of goat-related puns before this line in the making of this review.
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