Goats will eat anything. Although I knew they were partial to the odd baseball cap or whatever else falls into their pen down at the petting zoo, I didn’t believe this for myself until watching one of those American obsessive hoarder documentaries. What set this episode apart from others is that the hoarder’s house was slowly being consumed by her pet goats. They were, quite literally, eating her out of house and home.
Goat Simulator taps into the destructive nature of these (presumably) untameable beasts, combining Katamari Damacy and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater to create an incredibly curious package. Developers Coffee Stain Studios have banked on that fact that many will be left intrigued by Goat Simulator’s very existence, hoping to grab the attention of live streamers, YouTube video makers and those who enjoy watching such. The result is a something that’s just as entertaining to watch as it is to play.
Two open world environments are available – a small village surrounded by mountains and countryside and a large city with shops, a skyscraper hotel and a seaside theme park. You’re free to explore these locations at your own free will while ploughing through a list of various challenges. Leaving a trail of carnage in your wake is, however, almost entirely unavoidable – not only is the goat armed with a headbut ability that can even shift large boulders, but also a super stretchy tongue that can latch onto things. People, cars, roller coasters, hang gliders, explosive barrels…anything. Couple this with the fact that both maps have lots of bouncy objects – including trampolines and discarded mattresses – and you’ll get a rough idea of the mirth and merriment on offer.
There’s no pressure whatsoever to knuckle down and work through the challenges, which only adds to the pleasingly relaxed vibe. Easier challenges can completed on the fly without even trying, while others you’ll have to find the perfect place to complete. They start off simple – knocking an object a certain distance, performing a backflip, catching a certain amount of airtime, etc – but soon become more time consuming. We get the impression the high score challenges were designed to take a good couple of hours of continuous play, at the very least.
Goat altering Mutators make certain challenges easier, not to mention helping your goat around quicker in the process. A handful of Mutators – including a double-jump ability that may as well be a default skill – are available from the start, with the rest unlocking upon discovery of the secrets each location has tucked away. In this respect, Goat Simulator excels – the amount of secrets is vast, including the chance to summon a UFO and take part in a demonic sacrifice. Activating secrets isn’t always straightforward as you’d expect, sometimes requiring an item to be found first. Indeed, Goat Simulator is as much about exploration and self-discovery as it is wanton carnage.
We could list a few more Mutators but we don’t want to spoil any surprises as trying them out is one of Goat Simulator’s many joys. We dare you not to laugh upon activating the ‘Tall Goat’ Mutators for the first time. We’d even argue that the focus isn’t on completing challenges but trying find every secret and unlocking the attributed Mutators in the process. Achievements are linked to secrets too, with their names and descriptions giving a rough hint of where and how to find them.
But with just two locations the fun doesn’t last and the “joke” (the whole game’s very existence) soon wears thin. We can’t ignore the vast amount of bugs either as they were knowingly left in. Why? Because the developers thought it was funnier with wonky ragdoll physics, graphical glitches, unfinished animation cycles and such. In the developer’s defence, they have eliminated all the crash bugs (it wouldn’t have passed Microsoft’s QA process had that not been the case) and the worse you’ll ever face is the goat becoming permanently lodged into a wall – something that can be remedied via press of the respawn button. So while the glitches do give it a very rough, unfinished, look they don’t really hinder enjoyment to any noteworthy extent.
Goat Simulator is something that dares to be different, and that’s enough to overlook the shoddiness present in certain areas. If it doesn’t make you laugh out loud, it’ll at least make you crack a grin. It’s just a shame that most of the things that made us smile were down to general ineptness rather than genuine attempts at humour.