Goat Simulator Review
There are two things you need to know about David Smith*: one, he is odd. Two, he doesn’t care who knows it. I went to primary school with David Smith for five years and, even at a young age, envied the spiritual freedom he achieved from the norms of society. One day David was so excited it was break time he ran straight into the playground wall and broke his arm. On his regular days when the sheer joy and intensity of school didn’t overwhelm him, David sported a rain mac which, besides shielding him from the elements, doubled up as a tissue for a permanent cold. You know there’s always a kid with snotty candle sticks on their top lip? That was David Smith. But the sticks were on his sleeve and he wore them with pride. Goat Simulator breaks those sticks off and wears them as goat horns because it can and it thinks it’s funny. You’ll might think it’s funny too, for a while, and then (like David) you’ll probably just give it a bit of space for a while in case it tries to put crayons in your ear (like David).
Goat Simulator isn’t a “game” in the sense most people would consider (as TDF’s Geoff savage recently pondered). There are no levels or checkpoints, just (just!) a sandbox of explosions to trigger, gadgets to use and things to ram into repeatedly. The basic premise involves you guiding a goat round a suburban area with navigable houses, water slides and building sites so you can knock things over for points or trigger a series of things being knocked over sequentially for more points. The points are there but are really immaterial; the point is to blow things up and laugh while you’re doing it. Goat Simulator does this very well for the first few hours - the jokes and comedic moments come thick and fast and will probably make you laugh. Colliding with a petrol station triggers a catastrophic explosion and “MICHAEL BAY!” victory message as some great ragdoll physics hurl your goat skyward. Finding a hole in a chain-link fence (or jumping the fence) prompts a scurrilous “FUCK THE POLICE!” that genuinely made me guffaw. Exploring the town uncovers a myriad of these little gems and, provided you’re of that humour, it’s very entertaining.
I’m not convinced the humour will be to everyone’s tastes - I showed one relative the trailer and she was horrified at the flaming goat being hurled through a window - but you probably already knew before reading this review whether the idea of a goat with a jet-pack headbutting gas canisters into moving cars would make you laugh or not.
The gadgets I’ve mentioned give the game a much-needed boost to longevity. Scaling a tower block lets you find a jet-pack that sends you careening off into the sky, albeit with little ability to steer where you’re going to add to the randomness of everything. They’re funny by themselves but also encourage you to experiment with the game’s features; strapping a baseball machine to your back lets you shoot balls at anything and everything but also strings together “tricks” to add multipliers to your score (a little like how ollies work in Tony Hawk games). You can transform your goat with other missions which alter its appearance. Winning ram vs ram gladiatorial matches transforms you into a super-ripped Arnold Schwarzenegger of rams, whereas becoming the Queen Goat gives you a nifty goat mask/crown and the ability to summon prone, peasant goats from the sky by hitting R. It’s all completely bonkers.
An assortment of easter eggs and hidden goodies encourage you to explore further. Trophies are hidden throughout the level for you to find and some achievements give you hints as to what’s possible within the ragdoll physics (like dragging some poor soul onto a high-speed treadmill so that they’re catapulted across town). One standout moment lets you play “Flappy Goat” on a games console within a virtual replica of the developer’s studio. It mimics the Flappy Bird phenomenon on iOS and Android and there’s a neat Easter Egg that lets you unlock other games on the console, like Snake. However, you’ll soon exhaust the limits of the single arena Coffee Stain Studios have crafted for the game and then it’s a case of rehashing the same jokes or tricks over and over. The game’s been very popular on Steam and so there’s been a modest crop of Workshop mods to date, but whether or not these will really add anything remains to be seen. Goat Simulator has purposefully been left basic and fun (as the devs point out on the game's homepage) so it’s probably quite open to modding and adaptation; on the other hand, the lack of any sort of focus or fetch quest game objectives could make it harder to adapt for would-be modders.
At the time of writing Goat Simulator has sold phenomenally well - it’s one of the most sold Steam game in April 2014 - due in no small part to a truly unique concept, a hilarious trailer and a refreshing attitude to marketing which actually advises you not to buy the game. It’s worth a few laughs for the odd hour or two, and possibly more if you’re the kind to tinker with ragdoll physics and game mechanics to comic effect. I wouldn’t buy this expecting any epic JRPG narratives or emotional rollercoasters but you didn’t really expect that… did you?
*Not his real name, obv