My mom has spent more time in her life commenting on the pigsty-like status of my room than she has playing video games. She doesn’t know a D-pad from a shoulder button.
However, I discovered that this lack of experience actually makes her an incredibly honest (and hilarious) game reviewer. Last time, I had her critique Dark Souls II, which went just about as well as you’d expect.
This time, a developer actually reached out to us. Specifically, Ian Stocker of MagicTimeBean, the independent developer behind Escape Goat 2 for PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, and Linux. Stocker wanted my mom to give his 2D platformer a look, and we were only too happy to oblige.
Mom: I have to play the game? What do the buttons do now?
Mike Minotti: I don’t know. I haven’t played this game. This game is called Escape Goat 2. It was sent to me, actually, by Ian Stocker, who made the game, because he wanted you to review it specifically.
Mom: OK. Hope I do good, Ian.
Mike: But be objective, now. He says that you might appreciate the nonviolence of it. There are no swords or shields in this one.
[I show my mom the e-mail I got from Ian, which includes a picture of him.]
Mom: Oh, Ian, you’re cute.
Mom: What’s he holding?
Mike: Some sort of farm animal. Looks like a calf.
Mom: Awww. It’s a goat, I bet.
Mike: Maybe it’s a goat.
[I start the game.]
Mike: I think it’s some kind of puzzle game. Press start.
Mom: Where’s start?
Mike: That one.
Mom: Oh. You’re in my light.
Mike: That’s just the light’s fault. Push A to play.
Mom: OK. Oh, poor little goat. Do you know what I gotta do … ? I have to get the fire?
Mike: I don’t know what you have to do. Just explore.
Mom: How do I make him jump up there?
Mike: You can jump again when you’re in the air. Push A when you’re by the exclamation point.
Mom: Let me get the fire.
Mike: You can’t get the fire.
Mom: What’s fire there for?
Mike: It’s just like an atmospheric thing. Get that other exclamation mark, to the left.
Mom: Oh, Lord.
Mike: You just have to jump and get it.
Mom: How am I going to get there?
Mike: Jump and then jump again, see? Tilting the controller as you jump does not help. Go on that other platform first.
Mom: Well, I gotta get back on this one. … Wait, wait. OK. Turn him around. Jump.
Mike: You always stop before you jump.
Mom: I need a running start.
Mike: Do the double jump at the height of your first jump. There you go. Now push A when you’re over it. Why do you lift the controller up as you jump? That doesn’t help! Get on the platform first.
Mom: Oh, oh. OK.
Mike: You understand how you can jump again while you’re in the air? Try it right now.
Mom: Yeah, yeah. OK.
[My mom then spends a lot of time double-jumping … poorly.]
Mom: See, that’s why I never got past the first Mario.
[My mom keeps trying to make the jump.]
Mike: You’re a little short that time. It’s all right, though.
Mom: Oh, lord.
Mike: No, you’ll get there. You’ve almost got it. No, no, get that running start. You’ve mastered the double jump at least. It’s like all you do now. There you go. Almost.
Mom: Jeez! I’ll be on this part all day. Ah, that was in my way.
Mike: The fire that you wanted earlier.
Mom: I can’t get this stupid goat to go on that ledge! Aaagh! What do up and down do?
Mom: I’m getting worse.
Mike: No, no, you got this.
Mom: The fire was in the way. I gotta get up this way. OK. Turn around. Tell me when to go. A. …
Mike: A, A. A little too soon with the second A. You’ll get the feel for it. Just watch and do it when he’s at the height of his jump, you know? You’re doing it too soon again there. You’re just going left to right and double jumping.
Mom: Well, I’ve gotta get there eventually.
Mike: No, you gotta try! Don’t use trial and error.
Mom: Agh! My hands are sweaty.
Mike: You’re getting frustrated. You need to calm down. All right. Go right. See, like that. Do it like that every time.
Mom: Penny could do this better than me.
Mike: Penny’s our dog, in case anyone’s wondering who that is.
Mom: I wish it would stop raining.
Mike: The rain isn’t your problem.
Mom: He’s looking at me like I’m stupid.
Mike: Go to the right, get a running start, and just jump at the last second. There you go! See? That’s the way to do it.
Mom: But now I have to get there!
Mike: Just do what you just did!
Mom: But how long is it going to take me?
Mike: Just do it right the first time.
Mom: Oh, something moved. Now where do I go?
Mike: Go get that key.
Mom: Where’s the key?
Mike: Look. It’s right there.
Mom: I have to jump all the way over there?
Mike: It’s down. You don’t have to jump.
Mom: I go down now?
Mike: Yeah. You’re fine.
Mom: Wheeeee … OK.
Mike: That was the hard part. Just go get the key.
Mom: Let’s see.
Mike: There you go. Now just go through that door.
Mom: I have to go up to the door?
Mike: That’s easier. Look. Use single jumps. Single jumps will get you there. Jump, then go right. Jump and go left.
Mom: Jeez. Oh, no.
Mike: There you go. See?
Mom: OK, I’m there.
Mike: Push up now, when you’re —
Mike: See? You beat the first level.
Mike: All right. Push A. Start the new level.
[My mom is reading the text on the screen.]
Mom: “I knew you’d come. I’m taking you now, just ahead.” I have to go and get that key?
Mike: Yeah. I don’t know how. You probably do something with these blocks, I bet. Oh, I see. You’re fine. You have to jump up there and jump against that. Just jump against — there you go.
[My mom beats the second level with much less difficulty.]
Mom: I got through two levels.
Mike: That’s not bad, yeah. I don’t think you got through a single level in Dark Souls II.
Mom: Nope. That was a creepy game.
[As if merely mentioning Dark Souls II is a curse, my mom immediately falls to her death.]
Mom: Oh, now I’m dead!
Mike: That’s OK, you’re back.
Mom: What’s that exclamation?
Mike: It told you to push the R — I know what to do.
Mom: Where’s R?
Mike: It’s this one. Oh! It makes you do a dash. Go to the ledge and push R. Closer to the ledge. You’ll dash right over the gap.
Mike: That’s a couple more times dying.
Mom: I don’t understand.
Mike: Go as close to the ledge as you can. Now do it.
Mom: I’ll fall off again.
Mike: No, you won’t. You’ll clear the gap this time. See?
Mike: OK. Do that again, the ledge. No, the other — no!
Mom: What am I doing?
Mike: Go across the ledge again with the R button. There you go. See?
[My mom notices more fire.]
Mom: Is that going to burn me?
Mike: No. Um. …
Mom: Do I go down here?
Mike: No, that’s a bad idea. Jump and then push R into the fire. Double jump next to the fire and push R.
Mom: Yeah. Easy for you to say.
Mike: Well, it’s just three buttons. Oh, I see. You have to jump really high, Mom, and then push R to go over. Get as close as you can, jump, and at the height of your jump jump again, and then push R.
Mom: I can’t do —
Mike: Yes you can. No, no. Jump. Jump. R.
Mike: See, it’s teaching you to do all the little things you need to do in the game.
Mom: Oh, this is only teaching me?
Mike: It’s teaching you while you’re playing. It just gets more complex the more you play it.
Mom: Oh, lord.
Mike: Just step on that latch down there.
Mom: I can’t get down there.
Mike: If you zoom I bet you can fit.
Mom: OK, how do I zoom?
Mike: No, the dash you’ve been doing, with the R. Well, the other way.
Mom: Yeah … I can’t fit in there.
Mike: Try zooming when you’re at the top.
Mom: I don’t know what zooming is.
Mike: That’s the dash thing! Same thing. I’m just using different words.
Mom: That doesn’t work.
Mike: You weren’t at the top of the jump.
Mom: Yes I was!
Mike: No you weren’t! You hit the wall!
Mom: What do you —
Mike: When you’re on the top here, then do it, and then the dash. Jump, and then dash. See? Look out!
[The ceiling starts caving. My mom stands still and dies.]
Mom: Oh, I need to move!
Mike: You saw them falling. Don’t just stand there!
Mom: I thought I had a shield around me.
Mike: Why do you think you’d have a shield around you? You’re just a goat!
Mom: Because these games have shields on people!
Mike: Well, do it again, but this time keep moving so you don’t get killed.
[My mom gets through on her next try.]
Mike: Keep going, keep going, keep going. OK, see? See what that sleeping thing is.
Mom: It’s a turkey.
Mike: Well, see if it does something. I wonder why it’s there.
[My mom picks up the sleeping animal.]
Mike: See, you have a friend now.
Mom: A turkey?
Mike: Maybe it’s a chicken. Oh, push B.
Mom: Which one’s B?
[She finds the red button, pushes it, and a little mouse starts crawling in front of her.]
Mom: It’s a mouse.
Mike: See, look at that. He can go through that small space you couldn’t get through earlier.
Mom: Where’d he go?
Mike: When you push B, he comes back to you, I guess.
Mom: OK, now where am I?
Mike: Go back down there and let your mouse friend hit that button for you.
Mom: That didn’t do anything.
Mike: Yes it did. It moved all those things.
[My mom eventually gets a key, which unlocked a door on the other side of the level.]
Mike: That door’s easy to get to. Why are you sighing so much?
Mom: The door should be right there! I’m not trying to tell you how to do your game, Ian, but …
Mike: All right, a couple more levels.
Mom: I’ve got a headache. Now what am I doing?
Mike: Break those boxes, like you did before with your dash. Only the wood ones. Yeah. OK. Break those boxes. You’d better get on that ledge and jump first. There you go. What do you think you should do here?
Mom: Hm. I’ve got a headache. Can I get my mouse friend back?
Mike: Yeah. See, look, there he goes.
Mom: Ha, ha, ha!
Mike: You figured it out.
Mom: I’m not as dumb as I look.
Mike: All right, now you can go right.
Mom: Ooh, what’d he do?
Mike: He just came back to you.
Mom: What’s this little thing?
Mike: It’s just a block. What are you doing?
Mom: I’m trying to get up here.
Mike: No, hit that wood block. There you go.
Mom: Now where am I going to go?
Mike: I don’t know. What do you think you should do?
Mom: I think I’m stuck.
Mike: No. What do you do when you’re stuck?
Mom: I hit my mouse.
[My mom beats that level.]
Mom: Good. My eyes are getting goofy.
Mike: Your eyes are getting goofy?
Mom: Yeah, like strained.
Mike: It’s just like watching TV.
Mom: No, it’s not.
Mom: My shoulders hurt and stuff. Where am I at? Gosh. It’s dripping lava or something. OK.
Mike: Hold down and then push B. What’d that do? Oh, see, look —
[The mouse dropped on the switch.]
Mom: Now the mouse went to sleep.
Mike: Yeah, but he’s on the thing now, so you can keep going. No, don’t push B again. Put him down there. You have to push down and B on top of the thing, so that he stays.
Mike: You’re putting him on the switch, so that he keeps it held down. Yeah, but you have to do it on the switch. Yeah, see?
Mom: Now where should I go?
Mike: But he’s not even on the switch yet. Go on the switch. Now push B. Now hold down and B. Push B again. Do you understand what you’re doing?
Mike: Do you see how you step on the switch?
Mom: The mouse is doing something.
Mike: You can step on that switch and the blocks move. You’re going to put your mouse down so that when you step off the switch, the mouse will keep it pressed down. But you have to hold down and B, because that’s what makes the mouse sleep. If you just push regular B, the mouse starts moving. If you push down and B, he’ll sleep.
Mom: I am pushing down and B.
Mike: You’re not even on the switch, though.
Mom: Down and B.
Mike: Yeah. Push B once to get him back.
Mike: You have to get him back on you. Push B. Remember, B returns him after he’s out. Now push down and B. Let go of it. Here, no, do it. There you go. Don’t push B anymore. Just jump over to the rock.
Mom: I’m sleeping now.
Mike: No you’re not.
Mom: Yes, I am.
Mike: Well, keep moving. It’s just because you weren’t doing anything.
Mom: Now what’s sleeping over there?
Mike: Go find out.
Mom: Ooh! It’s a sheep sleeping over there, a lamb. “Where am I? Where is my brother? Can you help me find him?”
Mike: You’re going to help the sheep find his friends.
Mom: Oh. Now I gotta go up there. Do I have to go up there now?
Mike: I don’t know. Try over there. Call your mouse back. I bet the thing will go back while you’re up there. There you go. See? Just jump up there. You have a sheep’s soul released.
Mom: Am I done now?
Mike: Yeah, you can be done now.
Mom: Thank you, Ian! That was a nice game. No violence. Good luck with your little sheep and lambs.
Mike: So what do you like about Escape Goat 2, Mom?
Mom: I could do it?
Mike: You like that you could do it?
Mom: After a while.
Mike: Was it pretty? You liked the colors.
Mom: Yes. No violence.
Mike: What don’t you like about Escape Goat 2? What do you think Ian should do for an Escape Goat 3?
Mom: Um … I don’t know. Maybe put more — make it like, out in the country-looking, instead of all of these rocks and fires.
Mike: And you want the doors closer to the keys?
Mom: Well, for me. I mean, for you guys, it’s OK.
Mike: Have a mode for you where the key is always next to the door.
Mike: Well, thank you, Mom. Wait, what would you give it out of 100? What’s your score?
Mom: Um… 92?
Mike: Oh, very good. I just gave that score to Kirby. We think alike. The last score I gave was a 92, and now you give this a 92. That’s funny.
Mom: Great minds think alike. All right. ‘Bye!