There’s always something to be said for experiences that are objectively horrible, yet fascinatingly engaging. It’s why there is such a fascination with films universally considered so bad they’re good, like Troll 2 and The Room. It’s how Kristen Stewart became a successful actress. And it’s why Goat Simulator exists.
Goat Simulator is a video game that has no plot, no sense of progression, and no reason to even exist. The developers proudly boast that it is overly saturated with bugs, and as such, they won’t fix any bugs that don’t directly make the game completely unplayable. One of the achievements even requires that the game crash. So the question remains… how do you judge a bad game that depends on its badness to be enjoyable?
Goat Simulator (PC)
Developer: Coffee Stain Studios
Publisher: Coffee Stain Studios
Release: April 1, 2014
The game starts off by offering you some fairly simple missions to get a hang of the controls. Knock this thing this far, jump this high, score a combo this high, etc. The missions are well managed and give you the opportunity to explore the map and discover things at your own rate. It took me maybe 45 minutes to get through all of them, except the “high score” mission, but the fun doesn’t stop there.
Goat Simulator’s joy really comes through when you’re left to your own devices. Finding upgrades is the best part, such as becoming a demon goat king with a jetpack and a pitching machine strapped to your back. Using these upgrades threw me out of bounds multiple times and clipped me in between surfaces, but the lack of consequences and ease of respawning made these situations entertaining, instead of frustrating. My only gripe with the upgrades is that they are all mapped to the same button, so you can’t just use one without activating all the others. This is especially frustrating when trying to play a round of the already-impossible, “Flappy Goat.”
Working up combos is also great fun. Just when you think you’ve found every way to torture the poor inhabitants of this suburb, you discover that you can throw a farmer into his own plough or sacrifice unsuspecting souls in the name of Satan for personal gain. Trampolines and skate ramps also allow you to pull off tricks, which operate curiously similar to the skating levels of Spyro: Year of the Dragon. Of course, if you’re feeling more destructive, you can just headbutt and kick your way through some sucker’s house, baaaaing all the way.
Hidden goat statues also add a deeper element of exploration, which I really appreciated. Even though the map is relatively small, there are plenty of nooks and crannies where those elusive statues may be hiding. Some of them I found completely by accident, but others felt ingenious in their placement.
But—ah yes, the dreaded but—there’s a limit to the fun. With such a small map, you can only make the same rounds a number of times before it starts to wear on you. Also, even though a lot of the gimmicks and jokes are funny the first time, they don’t carry nearly the same weight in subsequent play sessions. This problem can make getting that final “high score” mission very boring. Once you’ve seen and done everything there is to see and do, working up points just feels like a grind. And if you’re starting from zero, that grind can last for about two hours if you mismanage your combos.
The visual and sound design are also pretty weak. While the game is not necessarily ugly, it fails to leave a distinct impression aside from a few interesting areas. You’d think for such a small game world, the developers would attempt to make each area memorable. The audio also runs into problems occasionally. The main tracks that play during the game are catchy, but after a few hours, the lack of variety gets real boring. I also ran into an issue where the jetpack sound effect wouldn’t stop once activated, so I ran around for nearly thirty minutes hearing “PSSSSHHHHHH” before I had to quit the game and reset.
As a disclaimer, at the time of this writing, there hasn’t been much quality user-generated content provided for me to comment on. The jump and explosion mutations are fun, but don’t add much. The bonuses provided by the game itself are equally quirky, but not very practical. I think the longevity of this game will really depend on the mods, so hopefully the users will come through.
If you’re looking for a game that will keep you entertained for 20+ hours, this isn’t for you. If you want a game you can boot up every now and then for half an hour, just to wreck some shit as a goat, you’ll probably enjoy Goat Simulator. If there’s one thing I can guarantee about the game, it’s that Goat Simulator’s fun factor will vary from person to person. Either way, it’s hard to justify the $10 price point, but if you like dumb or ironic fun, it’s worth at least picking up during a sale at a reduced price.