Goat Simulator – Review
Simulator games have developed a pretty odd fan base of late. Less than two years ago, if someone had told me we’d see Euro Truck Simulator 2 on Steam, I would’ve laughed into my 360 controller and asked how they got into my room. Now, however, we’re inundated with the damn things, and people are just lapping them up. Is this some kind of elaborate joke that no one has quite cottoned on to yet? One would be inclined to think so, given the current trend of simulation games. And heading up this current generation is Goat Simulator, a game that really is just a joke that went a little too far.
Which isn’t a bad thing, of course. While Goat Simulator may not actually be an accurate representation of a life as a goat, and therefore not technically a simulator, it’s still a pretty fun game. Within five minutes of loading it up, I had become queen of all goats, and could summon dead goats from the sky to crush humans and trash the landscape. Two minutes later, I’d been fired halfway across the map after blowing up the local petrol station. I ensnared a man with my infinitely sticky tongue and chased another man, screaming in fear, until he ran into a moving vehicle. I baa’d at a swimming pool. It did not have much to say in return.
Moving around is fairly easy; WASD covers walking and strafing, hitting the space bar makes you jump, pressing 1 lets out a baa. More advanced movements are thrown into the mix too; holding down the right mouse button lets you perform flips and spins (your goat is apparently well-versed in performing aerial tricks), pressing shift sends your goat sprinting off, and pressing R performs a special ability linked to your current costume, but more on that later. It’s easy to get the hang of, although jumping can be a little imprecise, especially when you start bouncing around on trampolines and the like. You can even enter ragdoll mode at any time if you choose, which supposedly aids in going higher on trampolines, but mostly just ends up with you lolling around on the floor, not doing a whole lot. All in all it’s not a difficult game to play, but it can be quite tricky to do anything meaningful in.
You can mess around as much as you want in the surprisingly large world that Coffee Stain Studios have provided you with, but for the objective-oriented out there, there’s a scoring system that tracks your activities and a collection of quests to complete. Some of these quests are as simple as performing a single front-flip, but steadily get harder, asking you to spend ten seconds in the air in one go, or just plain ridiculous, such as trashing a certain stone circle tucked away in the trees.
If you’re really stuck for ideas, there’s even thirty collectable goat trophies to find, scattered throughout the world in hard-to-reach places or locations you wouldn’t think to look normally. And then there’s the alternate costumes to unlock, such as the angel goat, which shines in brilliant white and has weird eyes, or the devil goat, which can summon a red ball of energy to destroy anything in its path. There’s plenty to see and do in the world, and it’s cool that the developers thought about the people who would be interested in more than just a dumb sandbox game.
And yet, I can’t help but feel that the gamification of what would be a very silly sandbox game is what makes it less enjoyable. Some of the objectives require precise jumps to achieve, which end up being incredibly annoying to complete given then game’s ridiculous physics engine, which will sometimes send you firing off into the distance for no immediately apparent reason. When the developers turn around and say they won’t be fixing these issues because that’s one of the main draws of the game, it’s maddening that they’d then ask you to fight these issues in order to complete a goal. Instead of feeling like a crazed mess of a game, it becomes an infuriating experience where, rather than just doing stupid things because you can, you feel like you can’t even complete the basic tasks the game throws your way.
And worse yet, the insane charm of the game starts to disappear in a very short space of time. Within an hour I had visited all of the locations in the world, uncovered some of the more bizarre secrets and events thrown in, and I was bored. After an hour and a half, I gave up on trying to do any of the missions and just went for a wander round. Shortly after that, I quit to desktop. That crazy first ten minutes of gameplay are amazing, yes, but despite objectives and collectibles and things to find, Goat Simulator just fails to really hold your attention. There’s attempts at humour throughout, and some of the jokes are very funny, but the main joke of “you’re playing as a goat” gets old very fast, and there’s not much left after that.
For a game that is essentially one big joke, there’s a surprising amount of work gone into making everything look good. Whack up the visual detail to “high” and you’ll be presented with a wonderfully detailed environment to explore, which is bright and cheery and a true pleasure to wander aimlessly around in. The animations can be a little wooden at times, and will often glitch, though this seems intentional and works with the broken nature of the rest of the game. I honestly wasn’t expecting much from the graphics department for such a dumb game, but truth be told I was amazed by just how stunning it really is.
The sound design is a bit of a mixed bag, however. The bleats emitted from your goat are glorious, and occasionally change to terrifying roars if you’re in the right costume, making for some truly bizarre scenarios. Humans scream in a very satisfying manner as you trash their small town, and all the sound effects to match the secret events are pitch-perfect and totally suit the event. But the soundtrack, a bizarre piece of music that feels like a children’s record being melted as it plays, really didn’t do anything for me. The demented, weird nature of the music does fit into the ethos of the game, but personally it was just too strange, and started to grate pretty quickly.
At the end of the day, Goat Simulator really does just feel like a joke that got a little out of hand. A good joke, yes, but one that loses its charm all too quickly. It’s a surprisingly well-made experience, with plenty to see and do, and opportunities for completionists to sink plenty of time into it. But the deliberately dodgy physics make meaningful actions incredibly tough to perform, and the bizarre soundtrack will drive you insane faster than any number of failed jump attempts will. It’s good news that we now have an environment where this kind of bizarre game can find a home and make money, but it’s evident from the addition of scoring and objectives that developers still feel the need to try and make everything more “game-y”, and in this case it was hugely unnecessary.Pros
- Plenty of opportunities to mess around aimlessly
- Really quite funny in places
- Remarkably beautiful environment
- Baa’ing at things never gets old
- The joke wears thin way too early
- Putting platforming into a game with deliberately broken physics is just annoying
- Grating, distorted soundtrack that is simply too weird
Goat Simulator was always intended to be a joke. The problem is that this isn’t a joke told at the end of a set during a big-name arena tour; it’s a nervous one-liner from a first-timer at the open mic which somehow manages to hit home. The humour and charm is present in this beautiful world, but it stops being funny and starts to become dull far too quickly, by which point you’ve seen all you’re going to see anyway. It’s a short, stupid game in a world that needs more of them, and I wish it every success, but like all stupid ideas, it’s just not quite good enough to hold you for long.
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