Goat Simulator is one of the first games that I've ever come across that arrives with a disclaimer from the developers concerned, actively warning people off of the game:
Goat Simulator is a small, broken and stupid game. It was made in a couple of weeks so don’t expect a game in the size and scope of GTA with goats. In fact, you’re better off not expecting anything at all actually. To be completely honest, it would be best if you’d spend your $10 on a hula hoop, a pile of bricks, or maybe a real-life goat.
And it might be right, you know.
For some, the thought of prancing about a pretty tiny, yet jam-packed sandbox as a crazy, bleating billy will seem completely pointless. Goat Simulator is a bit of an aberration -- a joke perhaps taken too far -- a broken, buggy mess that makes a mockery of game development and serves only as a flash in the pan designed to exploit today's obsession with YouTube-captured mishaps.
Goat Simulator is all of those things. Whether or not it's worth your ten dollars (or six pounds) will come down to how much of that you find amusing.
You play a goat, that much should be pretty obvious, plonked down in a rural little hamlet of sorts, constructed in such a way as to offer maximum fun through minimal effort. So there's a wonderfully furnished suburban home to trash, a construction site to destroy, a petrol station to blow up, and a low-gravity processing plant that makes no sense and is only there to provide sh*ts and giggles. In fact, that's pretty much the modus operandi for the whole thing.
The controls are simple enough, with a couple of notable inputs. The left mouse button allows you to headbutt things with impunity, and then there's a button simply titled "Lick", which basically attaches your incredibly sticky tongue to an adjacent object, and allows you to turn roadsigns, wooden chairs, people and even cars into makeshift flails for added destructive anarchy. The only downside is that you can't use you super-stretchy tongue to clothesline people. I did, however, manage to send a lorry I'd blown up into space, though. I licked the smouldering carcass of the truck I'd just headbutted an then proceeded to climb to the top of a nearby crane, whereupon the lorry cab got snagged, my goat's tongue stretched out like a pink, floppy bungie rope, and as I let go the truck broke free and zoomed up towards the heavens, ad I catapulted myself into a corn field where I was immediately run over by a dirt-drifting psychopath.
The game itself is a hot mess of buggy, broken mechanics. However, much like the machinations of its horned protagonist, Goat Simulator revels in its messy state. It's a game designed for the same crowd who thought the bugs in Skyrim were funny rather than frustrating, the whole thing revolves around the myriad glitches and dodgy abuses of the physics engine on offer. It's simple, short-lived stuff, but damn I was laughing so hard every second of that first hour of play.
There are objectives of sorts, but they can all be completed in about an hour or so. They're simple tasks -- racking up points by bashing into things, doing a certain number of front or backflips and landing them successfully, trying to stay airborne for a certain amount of time -- but they're also supplemented by a bunch of rather inventive Steam achievements that serve as nudges towards some of the game's hidden and not-so-well-hidden surprises, setpieces, and easter eggs. That said, so much of what makes Goat Simulator enjoyable is rooting these things out for yourself, enjoying the craziness at your own pace and leisure.
Goat Simulator is only here because we all watched a spoof trailer and then immediately started shouting, "We'd pay money for that!" and "Why isn't that A Thing?" Well now Goat Simulator is a thing. It's a riotous, rather brief joke, and that's fantastic. It's brilliant that it exists at all, it's brilliant that a gag like that original trailer can bring forth something as hilariously realised as this. Yes, it's a bit of a flash-in-the-pan and we'll all have forgotten about it in a couple of week's time (unless the modding community really go to town on it), but that's fine. Some of the best jokes are one-liners, but if they're funny enough you'll still be laughing days after you first heard it.
I'm on day three and I'm still laughing. And that's partly because I've been playing it in small bursts and got in on it early (I can't help but feel like there's a bit of an expiry date on full enjoyment here for as long as it continues to fill the airwaves of social media), partly because I keep introducing people who've never heard of it to play the game, and partly because I grew up in Somerset and understand just how hilarious goats can be. I love watching videos of animals doing idiotic stuff online, I've read that Buzzfeed article of the mournful dogs sitting beside the damage they've done with amusingly accusative handwritten notes beside them over a dozen times -- this game feels like it was built for people like me.
There are already loads of videos from Goat Simulator up all over the place -- heck, I've even done one -- so if you don't want to buy into this broken joke of a game (that's not being disparaging, just accurate) then you can still enjoy the frenzied fun from afar without spending any money. I for one really hope that the game attracts a modding community that go nuts with the base code. At the time of writing there are twenty-two little entries in the Steam Workshop files. If Goat Simulator is to have a future then that number needs to increase significantly, and I have my fingers crossed for some kind of haphazardly implemented multiplayer making an appearance somewhere down the line.
On one hand, it's a difficult game to recommend on this site because the value here is so incredibly subjective, more so than nearly any other game I can think of. You can see everything and unlock all of the collectibles and weird modifiers like jetpacks and giraffes and edible bombs in the space of a couple of hours. But on the other hand, I've been comfortably laughing my arse off for three days playing a game that embraces it's own mess and that of its central, mountain-dwelling hero.
- Goat Simulator exists
- It costs £10
The Short Version: Goat Simulator serves up a tiny, but pretty dense, sandbox stuffed with slapstick goofs and anarchic, broken comedy. It isn't much of a game, particularly for £6-8, but it's one hell of a joke.
Developers: Coffee Stain Studios