The first Escape Goat was a nearly flawless execution of what it wanted to be: a clever, compact puzzle platformer that didn't sacrifice cleverness for comprehensibility. In a lot of ways Escape Goat 2 is just more
of the same, albeit with a much nicer art style, but in expanding the original experience it loses a lot of what made the first game so smart. It feels like a sequel that someone felt they ought to make instead of an outlet for the ideas that couldn't didn't previously make the cut, and although that same great game is still at the core the level of consistent direction is not, leaving Escape Goat 2 in many ways a lesser experience than the one which preceded it.
That sounds fairly damning so I should probably backpedal a moment to stress that this is in no way a terrible follow up to proverbial classic. The first half of the game is in many ways just as fun as its ever been, reintroducing many of the same mechanics as the original and reminding me why I loved that game so much. It's at this point that I was firmly in love with the game, for as familiar as it was I had been wishing for more Escape Goat and developer Magical Time Bean was here to satisfy.
Unfortunately it may have been better if I had decided to quit after seeing the credits roll the first time, as upon returning to the castle to visit the other half of optional puzzles I'd unlocked the cracks in Escape Goat 2's foundation started turning into holes.
What the first game did so well and seemingly effortlessly was introduce new mechanics non-verbally, teaching you through gameplay instead of a traditional tutorial as it switched up the puzzle hook every new world. 2 does this too, but it often operates under a presumption that you're already familiar with the systems it introduces, and freely uses them without giving you time to learn in a game that's already a far steeper challenge than the original. Where the first game was always careful to be completely clear when showing you how its world worked, Escape Goat 2 is muddy and hard to parse.
The only way for me to get around this was through trial and error and occasionally leaning on a guide for support, neither of which I'd previously felt necessary as I always had everything I needed right in front of me and had been taught how to make use of them. There were numerous recurring moments where I was completely unsure how a puzzle was even suppose to work, and the game was giving me no hints to ease me in. It's not that the puzzles are more difficult but that they feel cheap and intentionally difficult to understand, often including red herring items just to clutter the screen and usually relying on switches which you typically have no idea what will trigger until you already have.
The significantly increased reliance on timing and twitch platforming expose a lot of the otherwise serviceable control issues, most frustrating being the odd weighting which makes precision movement agonizingly inconsistent. Many puzzles begin already in motion, leaving me no time to even look over what I'm jumping into before I have to start making decisions that usually caused me to have to restart because I missed a jump or didn't hit a button at exactly the right moment. It's things that feel out of place and work poorly within Escape Goat 2's framework, like puzzles that were originally scrapped but brought back in just to pad out a game thinks it needs to be larger for the sake of being a sequel.
I think it's worth mentioning again that Escape Goat 2 isn't awful, and I don't regret the time I spent with it. It's simply that coming from such near perfection to comparative mediocrity is rather more shocking than it might have otherwise been if this had been the first game. Escape Goat 2 fails largely because of the weight of its predecessor, which in its attempts to best end up being its downfall. If all you ever wanted was more Escape Goat, that's definitely here, but when I finally exited the last room I had begun to considerably question if I really did want that as much as I had thought I did.