Escape Goat 2

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by MagicalTimeBean for PC, Mac, Linux, and PS4, originally released in 2014.
Escape Goat 2 is the sequel to Escape Goat, a block-based puzzle platformer starring a goat. The most immediately apparent difference between this game and its predecessor is in the visual presentation. Escape Goat 2 features more detailed lighting and high definition illustrated sprites, whereas the original game went for more of a chunky retro feel.

As before, you take on the role of a purple goat with a magical mouse friend as you set off across a number of single-screen environments on a puzzle-platforming quest to rescue a bunch of sheep.

The goat can perform a dash to the left or right, either across the ground or in midair. He can also execute a 2x variable height jump, and a 4x double jump. The double jump can be initiated at any point, even when dropping off a ledge or after a midair dash. These abilities are more than enough to get you around the environment, but to solve the more complex puzzles, you’ll need the help of a little mouse.

The mouse has a number of advantages over his Capricorn friend. For one, he can fit into tight spaces where the goat cannot reach, but more than that, he can climb walls and crawl across ceilings like a Spider Ball-equipped Samus Aran. Drop the mouse at any point in the environment and it will walk forward, climbing up any walls it touches, up across the ceiling, and wrapping around platforms. While the mouse can’t grab any collectibles, it can activate switches and perform a number of other helpful tasks, like drawing enemy fire.

You don’t have direct control over the mouse, but you can control how he behaves to some extent by how you drop him. Drop him while facing to the left or right, and he will move in that direction. Hold left or right while jumping and you can toss the mouse to the nearest platform or wall. Hold up and you can toss the mouse straight up, potentially landing it on the ceiling, where it will start running in the direction you were facing when you threw him. And lastly, you can press down to set the mouse down and leave him in a stationary position – where he will eventually lie down and fall asleep – which is handy for holding down buttons while you move onto newly opened areas. You can teleport the mouse back to your position at any time… just be careful not to get yourself stuck in the process.

Puzzle solving relies heavily on pressing buttons to move pieces of the environment and making your way to the exit door, often collecting one or more keys along the way. Activating switches in the wrong order can block you from making it to a required key or even trap you without a means of escape. Often, getting yourself trapped or killed teaches you a bit more about the environment and the actions that you need to take on your next attempt. If you do find yourself unable to move forward, you have a quick restart option that lets you drop yourself back at the start of the room to try again.

As in the first game, certain levels contain a magic hat. Once collected, the goat gains the ability to teleport, swapping places with the mouse and allowing him to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. In addition, wooden boxes and enemies within the teleportation path are destroyed. Often, foes must be cleared from your path before you can complete the level, and teleporting through breakable blocks is sometimes required for puzzle solutions as well.

The mouse has a couple of new tricks in its repertoire this time around. In addition to the magic hat, you can also grab a Cape of Vengeance that allows the mouse to teleport straight upward… well, straight up from his perspective anyway. This means the mouse can climb a wall and teleport straight across the room, or climb over the ceiling and teleport straight own. Either way, this allows the mouse to break through blocks and kill enemies on his own, without the need to swap positions with the goat.

The Tiny Hammer pickup allows the mouse to transform into a solid metal block (with one of several humorous designs), which has a variety of interesting uses. For one, the block can be pushed around by the goat, allowing you to push it off ledges to crush enemies and break wooden boxes. It can also be used to block enemy fireballs or interrupt electrical currents.

Lastly, there is a skull-topped scepter that the mouse can grab, at which point his eyes begin glowing, a strange red symbol appears in the background, and four orbs rotate around him. Each of these orbs acts as a mouse that you can summon to the goat’s position, allowing you to deploy multiple mice simultaneously. Things can get a bit crazy with four mice running around – akin to activating multiball in a pinball game – and you need to act quickly to ensure that mice are properly placed and retracted as needed. You can also teleport to the location of each mouse, and teleporting occurs in the same order that the mice were deployed, requiring a bit of strategy on your part as well.

Level progress takes place on a large stained glass window with levels represented as interconnected squares that fill with color as you complete them. The first few levels act as a tutorial to get you accustomed to the movement controls and introduce you to the mouse. Once this first series of levels is completed, a new section is opened on the stained glass window. At this point, the only thing blocking your progress is the number of sheep soul orbs you have collected (gained by rescuing sheep), allowing you to complete accessible levels in any order. If you get stuck at any point, you can return to the stained glass world map and instantly warp to any open level.

Each time you release a sheep soul orb, you are transported to the central spine of the stronghold, which acts as the hub. From here, you can revisit the sheep you have rescued – all of which deliver humorous quips – and access new level branches. Each floor of the spine has a deceased animal of some sort, and walking up to it summons the ghost of the creature to speak with you. If you have collected enough orbs, the ghost will open the door to the next set of levels. Otherwise, you’ll see orbs spinning around the door, with blank slots showing how many more orbs are required to continue.

Each section of the stronghold features challenges centered around a different theme, just as the first game had doors that led to different themed areas. This time around, there are more than 100 puzzle rooms, which is more than double that of the original game. To make it to the top of the spine, you need only complete the first set of challenges in each area, but completing these opens up a new tier of puzzle rooms with more difficult challenges, each with a new sheep to rescue.

For the most part, the challenges from the first game return, with wooden boxes to be broken, ice blocks to be pushed, and electricity to be avoided… or turned against your enemies. One thing that has changed is that there are fewer “factory”-style levels than there were in the first game, which is where you would enter a room and things would start happening before you took any action, with conveyor belts pushing blocks or chain reactions being initiated on their own. Here, most of the level designs center on your actions, and most time-based challenges must be initiated by the player. This generally gives the player more time to put together a strategy at the start of each room, but there are certainly instances where the player will need to think and move quickly.

In addition to environmental challenges, you’ll face enemies in the form of Reapers. Reapers have relatively simple behaviors, allowing you to put their predictable actions to use for your own ends. If you are standing to the left or right of a Reaper – even if you are on the other side of a wall – the Reaper will toss a steady stream of fireballs in your direction. Reapers will also toss fireballs at the mouse, which can be used to draw their fire, and the mouse will be returned to you if it gets killed. Reapers prioritize the goat over the mouse, so you can draw their fire if you have sent the mouse out on an important route.

Reapers’ fireballs will destroy wooden blocks, melt ice blocks, and explode fire blocks… often leading to a chain reaction of explosions that may kill you if you’re not careful. There are also fire barrels that can be rolled around by the goat, or activated with a switch. If these are hit with fire, they will begin burning and explode after a few seconds, killing anyone in the blast radius and destroying certain blocks. Alternatively, these barrels can be used to weigh down switches, provided you can prevent them from being destroyed beforehand.

Wooden blocks present an interesting challenge in that fire can ignite them and cause them to burn away, and they’ll also ignite nearby wooden blocks as they burn. This presents time-based challenges where you need to cross platforms before they burn away, or before they ignite explosive blocks or barrels. However, wooden blocks are extremely fragile and are easily destroyed through head butts, falling stone blocks, or other dangers. This gives you the opportunity to break a fiery chain reaction, or – in rare instances – protect a series of blocks to ensure that the fire burns all the way through. There are also a number of more cerebral challenges where you must operate objects remotely or send the mouse down a long and complex path.

Reapers can be further manipulated through the use of ice blocks. The goat is able to push ice blocks (single or in stacks) and they will slide across the ground until they reach a solid object. Reapers only patrol to the left or right, and will turn around when they reach a wall or ledge. However, by placing an ice block at the edge of a platform, the Reaper will slide on it and fall off the ledge onto the next lower platform. Some of the game’s tougher challenges center on getting Reapers to move where you want them without getting yourself roasted in the process.

Escape Goat 2 was developed by California-based MagicalTimeBean, headed by Ian Stocker. The studio was founded in 2009 when Ian began working on Soulcaster which was released on the Xbox Live Indie Games channel in 2010. The game was followed by a sequel, Soulcaster II, later in the same year, and both were released on PC in 2012. The original Escape Goat also originated on Xbox Live Indie Games in 2011 and was later released on PC as well. Escape Goat 2 was published by Double Fine, who formerly worked exclusively in game development, having created such titles as Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, and the Costume Quest series.

Prior to opening his own studio, Ian worked professionally in the game industry, working as a sound designer on a number of games for Nintendo handheld systems. His work includes the LEGO Star Wars games, Spore Creatures, 007: Everything or Nothing, Robots, The Sims 2, and several games in the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series.

In Soulcaster, you play the part of a wizard who has no offensive abilities of his own. However, he does have the ability to cast spells which summon forth the souls of great warriors to protect him. There are three types of allies that can be summoned: a warrior, an archer, and an alchemist. The wizard is able to run freely through the environment, but summoned warriors are stationary. In this way, the game becomes a balance of RPG and tower defense, as the wizard must explore the environment but regularly encounters situations where he must surround himself with allies in order to survive.

Each of the warriors has a different ability. Aeox, the tough warrior, can slash enemies in adjacent squares. Shaedu, the archer, can fire her arrows long distances and take down enemies from afar. And Bloodfire, the alchemist, can toss bombs over walls, destroying enemies that neither of the other characters can reach.

Players must employ strategy to take advantage of each of these abilities, such as placing warriors near choke points and using archers to fire across rivers. Each character’s weapons, attack speed, range, and health can be upgraded individually as well, allowing for a bit of customization. At the start of the game, you can only summon three warriors at a time (including multiples of the same type), but you can also spend your upgrade points to allow for additional warriors to be summoned, for a maximum of five.

The wizard cannot defend himself directly, but he does have a couple of tools at his disposal that help to balance the lack of direct control over the stabbier members of his party. The wizard can carry potions to restore his health if he does come under direct attack, and he can carry scrolls that destroy all of the enemies on the screen. Both items can only be carried in limited quantities, which can be purchased from stores and sometimes found as enemy drops.

The same gameplay is present in Soulcaster II, with the three warriors making a return appearance. At the start of the game, the wizard can summon up to three warriors at a time, and you can upgrade to five. However, the environments are more detailed and visually diverse this time around.

In addition, there switches that allow for entire sections of the environment to be altered, forcing players to consider the changing environment when deploying their troops. Traps can alter the environment as well, potentially blocking your path and forcing you to quickly adjust your strategy.