As I’ve said before, the Xbox Live Indie Games section is host to many a cheap knockoff, lazily-coded weekend project, or good idea wasted on bad programming. Every once in awhile, though, you can find a game that despite iffy graphics proves itself to be a fun experience, or a game that manages to be a memorable experience despite its shortcomings.
Escape Goat is none of these things. A unique, expertly assembled game right from the beginning, I knew Escape Goat was going to be something great right from the short demo, and it did not disappoint.
In Escape Goat you play as a magical purple goat who wakes up in prison for the crime of hat theft. The story only becomes stranger from there. Right from the first room, however, you’re shown that Escape Goat is really unlike any other game out there in terms of gameplay and level design, let alone the absurd story.
Escape Goat looks and sounds like an old forgotten DOS game, something I’ll admit I have a weakness for, although the overall aesthetic of the game reminds me somewhat of the caves area of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The entire game takes place within the different areas of The Prison, all of which are linked through a central hub area, or “The Gathering Place.” Each area of the game features five single-room puzzles (save for the final area which had 12, I believe) and a final room housing one of the sheep you are supposed to rescue.
Each of the puzzle rooms range from “complex” to “mindblowing,” but this doesn’t always apply to the solution. Many of the puzzle rooms are quite simple to figure out, sometimes almost disappointingly so; however, a level almost never looks the same completed as it did when you entered it. Frequently, whether it be by a switch you tripped, a gear turned by another object, or a number of other things, the level will shift and move around into something completely different. Many times the way in which the level will change isn’t obvious, which leads to some trial-and-error but the levels are short enough that it rarely becomes frustrating, and sometimes simply watching some of the machinations designed within the levels are worth it alone.
The one problem I had with Escape Goat was the length of the game. Most of the levels go by very quickly and you’ll probably find yourself breezing through the first few areas of the game with little difficulty. The final two areas of the game did ramp up the difficulty a significant bit while still remaining on the fun side of challenging, for which I am thankful, but by the end it left me wanting way more. Escape Goat does come with a full, surprisingly complex level editor, but some way to share levels a la N+ or even the flash game Time Fcuk [sic] would have been amazing.
I cannot stress enough how much fun I had with Escape Goat. Despite its short amount of levels, it looks, sounds and plays like a perfect homage to classic platformers with the complexity and smart level design of a Triple-A title. While a way to share created levels online would have added the extra burst of replay value to make this a perfect title, Escape Goat is still a wonderful Indie Game that is well worth playing.