Playing puzzle platformers may seem instinctual for some, but there is quite a bit going on when people play them. They make judgment calls all the time when they jump onto a new surface, when they encounter interactive objects, and getting to the exit of the level relatively in one piece. Some really like the genre, while some just aren’t that good or thrilled at playing them. Escape Goat is one of those titles that best exemplifies this genre in the modern era of gaming as it calls back to old-school while showing the polish of what people expect from games these days.
Escape Goat is an Xbox Live Arcade game developed by MagicalTimeBeam that was later released for the PC. You play as a purple magical goat, which is quite a stretch for anyone’s imagination. You have been imprisoned in the Prison of Agnus for witchcraft, and you must find a way to escape as the pun-intended title suggests. It won’t be easy as you’re surrounded by traps and enemies of all sorts. While you’re at it, you must rescue a bunch of sheep that are languishing in this prison.
Along the way, you are made to use both your brain and dexterity to negotiate every problem and obstacle that keeps you from your much-needed freedom. Of course, that can’t just be accomplished not without challenge. The gameplay has a balance between puzzle-solving and straight-up platforming, and it’s easy enough to learn. It is helped by the responsive controls that provides no hardship, so you are drawn into the game without bad controls getting in the way.
You can jump, double jump, and dash, as well as use your mouse companion to reach tight spaces and magically switch places with it through the use of a magical hat. Through these actions, you activate switches, push blocks, and break obstacles in attempting to unlock and reach the exit of each room. If you somehow got stuck, you can press the button for retrying as well. Each room you encounter is a puzzle and requires a bit of thinking and some trial-and-error in order to solve.
The retro visuals look pretty good, and the gameplay also takes inspiration from the platformers of that time. The old-school look is not everyone’s cup of tea, so there is some getting used to involved for some people. Also, the visuals can do with some variety because all you can see here is a lot of dark shades of colors, so the atmosphere can get dreary after playing it for an hour or so. The sound is also well-done, from the spot-on sound effects to the music that adds to the overall atmosphere.
Escape Goat is quite fun throughout the game, even though the difficulty is not entirely consistent as some areas are easier than others since the challenge throughout the whole game is engaging and fair overall. It’s also rather short, and there isn’t much else to hold players over in this game aside from the singleplayer itself. But then again, maybe it doesn’t have to as the campaign itself is already quite solid.
A sequel has already been announced, with new puzzles and new magical hats to use, as well as a new art style to liven it up and go beyond the series’ pseudo-retro trappings. That’s good news for those who finish this game and still want more. For a $5 game, Escape Goat provides a good bit of enjoyment through its stimulating gameplay, thoughtful design, and quirky humor.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8.5/10