Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bigger, Better, Baaader - Escape Goat 2

So, way back in October of 2014, I reviewed Escape Goat, which you can read here, finding it to be a short but very fun puzzle platformer with an awesome soundtrack. I also mentioned the sequel and said I might get to reviewing it at some point. Well it took longer than it probably should have, but here we are. So, how does the sequel stack up?

Escape Goat 2 has the same basic setup as the last game. You're a purple goat, who has to explore a stronghold, solving puzzles and avoiding obstacles to rescue sheep. The first thing you're likely to notice is the map system. Instead of a single hub to select which area you want to go like in the first game, there's a map that shows all of the levels you can go to. with more areas unlocking as you clear previous ones. It's better laid out than the old hub as you can readily jump to any level you have unlocked though the map, rather than skipping through levels like in the previous game, and the roughly vertical layout of the map, along with numbering each area gives a better indication of how hard any given area is with stages getting harder the further up you go.

Another major change is that while levels all still fit within a single screen, the actual size of a level is now somewhat variable, with the game's view zooming in or out to accommodate. This allows for a bit more variety in level design, as the game can close in for small, tightly packed levels, or zoom out for larger, more complicated ones, and there's a good number of both to go around.
Some levels, like this one, are a bit smaller than the others, so the game zooms things in to compensate
Much like last time, the stages are heavily mechanical, full of moving parts, switches, conveyor belts and other things you'll have to manipulate or work around. Stages are a lot more complicated this time around, as while manipulating a level's layout is still a big part of solving puzzles, there's also a little more emphasis on how things interact with each other, as puzzles might require you to move blocks to help reposition an enemy or get a barrel into place. As another example, the game;s main enemy, a reaper can throw fireballs when it sees you, if these fireballs hit a crate, it lights on fire, burning not only that crate but other crates next to it. Several levels are based around this ability, using lines of crates to create fuses for the fire to travel though.

The mouse also makes it's return in Escape goat 2. Just like the last game, you can have it walk around the levels, climbing floors and ceilings, or having it sit in place. It's role however, has been greatly expanded. the mouse now has several new power ups you can get hold of. The hat that let you swap places with it returns, but there's also some new powerups you can find, like a hammer that can turn the mouse into a solid block, or a cape that lets it jump between walls, or the floor and ceiling depending on where it's standing. Some levels even allow you to have multiple mice to work with. There's even some levels that are almost entirely reliant on the mouse. Overall the game does a great job of taking advantage of using these new abilities to make some interesting puzzles.

Fire can slowly spread through crates.
Just like the previous game, Escape goat 2 has a good difficulty curve, steadily ramping things up without too much in the way of sudden lulls or spikes in difficulty. This is helped by the games size. Compared to the roughly 50 levels of Escape Goat, Escape Goat 2 is twice the size at about 100 levels long, and they take advantage of this, letting the difficulty rise at a slow, steady pace. The game is also harder then the first, several levels had me stumped for quite awhile, none of the stages seemed impossible, save for one or two end-game levels that had me stumped badly enough to look up the solution online. There's even some secrete levels, judging by the game telling me I haven't found all the rooms, though they're very well tucked away as I've yet to actually find any on my own.

The level editor also makes a return from the previous game, along with some good news and some bad news. The good news is this time the level editor has Steam workshop support, making user made levels readily accessible and while there's not a massive level making community, there's a good number available on the game's workshop page. The bad news is that's on the Steam version and this game is not exclusive to Steam. I'll note I only have the Steam version, so I'm not sure what the situation with the level editor is outside of Steam. I did do a little Googling to try and find places to download user made levels, but couldn't find any. So note user made levels might not be readily available outside Steam. Fortunately, the level editor isn't the primary focus of the game, so it's not a major loss if non-steam copies can't readily access it or levels made with it, but it's something to keep in mind when deciding where to get the game from.
The map is a stained glass window, that slowly fills in as you complete levels.
One of the biggest changes between Escape Goat 1 and 2 is the graphics. While the first Escape goat used simple Pixel art. Escape goat 2 get's rid of the pixel aesthetic. Instead, the game uses a very detailed art style that seems almost hand drawn in places. Areas look much more distinct from each other compared to the first game, including detailed backgrounds and some nice lighting effects to top things off. It's also very readable, even when levels are zoomed in or out I can readily recognize everything I'm looking at. I also liked the stained glass motif used for the map, with parts that fill in as you free sheep and complete levels. overall This is a very nice looking game.

What Escape goat 2 got rid of the first game's pixel art, it fortunately kept the soundtrack. Escape goat 2's soundtrack picks up form where the first left off, giving more catchy, epic sounding chiptunes. The soundtrack's only a bit longer than the original games, 14 tracks instead of 9, but they're all good, especially Caper Erratus, the track that plays over the end credits. I'd highly recommend that if you don't get the game, at least give the soundtrack a listen on Bandcamp. Sound meanwhile is pretty good. There's not a lot to the game's sound, mostly you'll be hearing the sound of turning gears and moving stone, backed by the occasional fwoosh form a reapers fireball, or the sound of breaking wood, but sound quality is nice across the board and doesn't detract too much from the awesome music.
You're ultimate goal in each area to free sheep, like this one.
So, overall this game is pretty good, though one flaw with the game is that the levels don't always seem as tightly designed as they could be, namely a handful of levels felt like I didn't beat them quite as intended. There were spots where I made a weird jump I wasn't sure I was supposed to do, or I'd get passed an obstacle in a way that while it worked, didn't seem like it was what I was supposed to be doing. it's not horrible, and I could just be flat out wrong and everything I did was intended to be possible, but it is was something I noticed.

Also, there's a couple points in-game that require you to do things either very quickly or with some fairly precise timing and those were likely the games weakest points. Escape Goat works best when it plays somewhat slowly, giving you time to look the level over and think things through. So when they need you to time things or work quickly, it's kind of jarring and just doesn't sit well with me, especially when the game usually gives you some margin of error, or at least makes getting stuck in a level more a matter of doing things improperly rather than simply not being fast enough. Though as bad as these moments are, they're fortunately rare.

Overall, This is pretty much a no-brainer, almost everything Escape Goat 1 does, Escape Goat 2 does much better. If you liked the first game, defiantly get this. If you haven't tried either game yet however, you might want to try the first game and see if you like it before getting into this, as it's cheaper, and the core gameplay is pretty similar.

Escape goat 2 was developed by MagicalTimeBean and published by Double Fine Productions. It is available on Steam and GoG. It's homepage is available here. It's soundtrack is available on Bandcamp.

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