Played on Windows
Available for Linux, OS X, and Xbox 360
Escape Goats is a cute little game by MagicalTimeBean. It’s a puzzle game where you guide a goat (and his mouse friend) around a level, flipping switches and triggering traps to escape a dungeon.
The story is that you are a goat that was thrown in jail for witchcraft. That’s pretty much the beginning and end of the story. While there are small comments made by a few characters you rescue, the idea of magic is only used in a special item you can find. Even there, it’s not a deep mechanic, just the ability to switch places with a helper. It’s just an explanation for why you have to run through 55 levels
The story is quite absent in the game, There’s not a big boss or any story after the beginning, just a few words on the screen at the beginning of the game. That’s ok for a puzzler but I think the game could have been safe without any story.
The game plays like a normal platformer (movement, a double jump, and dash). Then to make it just complicated enough to keep it interesting, you have a mouse that assists you and you can summon back to you and redeployed as necessary. Even death doesn’t stop him. He’s the helper who can get into small spaces or trigger switches while you move on. It’s a great way to extend the puzzles so the player isn’t always the one who toggles switches without ignoring the platforming aspects of the game.
An early level. Just hit the buttons to move the walls.
In addition, I mentioned there is a special object that has a magical feel. That’s a magical hat that allows you to switch places with your mouse. You can switch places with him and then switch back as necessary.
There are a few types of switches. The entire list is switches that have to be touched by the goat, switches the mouse or goat could hit, switches that have to be held, and switches that need an object to hit (a box, stone, or barrel). Once you’ve seen each of those, you’ve seen the main mechanics of the game.
The core of the gameplay is that you are tasked to escape the dungeon, to do so you need seven sheep to assist you to get out. Why Sheep? These are questions that are unneeded here, or at least unanswered. The goal of the game is to get sheep by running through sets of 6 levels. Well really 5 levels plus a level where you walk over and touch the sheep to exit.
Each grouping of levels is tied together usually with a theme or idea. It’s nice because it goes through the normal progression. Introduction to an idea, advancement of the idea, and then mastery of the concept. This is how normal puzzle games work and I don’t see a reason to change what obviously has worked for most games in the genre.
There is a good variety of the sets. There are levels for electricity, ice (of course ice), reaper enemies, conveyor belts, and so on. You might see a reaper on other levels but there are levels that really focus on them, the same with all the other ideas. They appear but they also have specific levels devoted to them.
You aren’t given access to all the levels immediately, but they are unlocked relatively quickly. After the first set of five (or six) levels you have the choice of two sets of levels, from there every set of levels you complete open two more sets until you’re presented with all nine possible sets. From there you just have to complete seven of the sets (meaning if you get stumped on two levels you’ll be fine to beat the game).
The level select is simplistic but works.
Once you get seven sheep the “Final” levels appear. This is just a gauntlet of 10 levels using many of the concepts you’ve already seen. It’s a solid ending to the game, and while a few of the levels are quite trying, they all are well built. I don’t think there are many bad puzzles in the main game, known as the Prison of Agnus.
In addition, some levels do have clever alternative ways to solve them, these levels actually are given achievements. There are thirteen achievements just for solving rooms in a different way. None are that hard, but a few will test your dexterity, something the game tends to avoid testing too much.
So the Prison of Agnus is probably average difficulty or maybe just a little easy for puzzle fans. They’re good solid puzzles. Is this a good beginner’s game for new puzzle fans?
Well sure, the main levels are extremely enjoyable to novices, and even have some challenge for experienced games. Then there are the All Intensive Purposes levels. These don’t even attempt to act like they are in the same game as the original puzzles. They tend to take two or three sets of levels and mix the concepts together to create all new levels, and to say they’re difficult is saying something. I’ve seen the game’s developer say that he hasn’t beat all of these levels. I’m sure someone has, but they’re damn hard. If you think the main game is easy, this is where you want to go after the main game. It will give you a whole new appreciation for the systems the game sets up.
On the other hand the All Intensive Purposes level select looks awesome.
The All Intensive Purposes made me appreciate the control scheme the game developed. The controls are exceptionally tight in the game and make you feel like you are truly the master of your destiny. These levels require that level of mastery. There is precision in the jumps required, but they always felt relatively fair. When I die, it’s usually because I didn’t time something right, I didn’t use the right move, or I did steps out of order. These levels are almost three times as long as the levels in the base game, so being in control of your destiny is crucial and you have that here.
So if you want a challenge, it’s definitely here. Personally, I find these levels too hard as I only beat about 4 of them total, but for the guy who wants that “hardcore challenge,” you have it here.
The real problem with this game isn’t from the guys who want a challenge. Those guys will find their money’s worth here. It’s the people who want a small challenge and to feel rewarded that might find it lacking. The game took me an hour and forty-five minutes to beat the Prison of Agnus. That’s including seeing every level and getting all the achievements except one. The final achievement is to beat the Prison of Agnus levels in forty-five minutes.
So this is not a long game. Of course in puzzle games, your mileage varies. I did look up one solution that completely stumped me, and one puzzle took me significantly longer to beat than I thought it would (maybe 20 minutes). If you’re going to go through all the rooms, it’ll definitely take you longer than 45 minutes, and I think 45 minutes is going to challenge people though speedrunners are able to get under 20 minutes.
But I didn’t feel the desire to really tackle the speed run. I don’t think most people will. The ultra hard levels will engage those players who really want to tackle something difficult, but most players will be turned off by the high difficulty bar there. As it stands, the main game is what most people will play through and do so relatively quickly.
There is another issue I have with Escape Goat. I like this game, but I find it difficult to jump up and down with joy about it. It is a good game, and I think the developer is talented and definitely should continue making games. But this is a game that I appreciate and recommend but I do it with a nod, rather than a celebration.
I still enjoy Escape Goat and I do recommend it, but it doesn’t carry the strength of some of my others. It is five dollars and that’s honestly a good price for it. It’ll occupy you for a bit, but don’t expect an epic journey, or a deep story, because that’s not here. Instead, you get solid level design and a good gameplay, and that’s good enough.
Final Thoughts: Escape Goat is a good game, enjoyable for the short time you play it, but unless you want to tackle ridiculously hard levels it’ll be a relatively short game for most players.
Stats: 5 hours, 15/16 achievements