Goat Simulator Review: G.O.A.T.Y.

goat-simulator-headerIs a comedy game that’s openly considered to be a joke by its own developer and much of the gaming press something that’s a meta joke that also happens to be a game or just a joke that isn’t worth the time and money to buy and play it?

If you’ve read other reviews of Goat Simulator, that’s what they all come down to, whether the reviewer says so or not. Should a game that the developer says is a comparative waste of money be evaluated based on the developer’s promises and description of the game or should it be evaluated against every other game on the market?

The answer has to lie somewhere in the middle ground. Can you punish a game for being a below average technical effort while being exactly what was promised by the devs and hoped for by gamers?

Goat Simulator is basically a physics sandbox. You’re a goat who runs around destroying things for its own amusement and you score points. The game has a goal/achievement system that’s displayed on the right side of the screen so you could conceivably play with an aim of achieving the next goal. I somehow doubt anyone does that, though.

goat-simulator-screenshot-01To accumulate the points, you run around destroying things, licking objects, jumping over other objects and doing flips and spins. It’s not limited by a timer like the classic THPS games but rather an accumulation over time. Stringing together “tricks” in quick succession increases your multiplier and increases the points you score. But since the points don’t matter apart from a 30-second time trial that has a Steam friends leaderboard, you aren’t going to be very concerned.

The crux of Goat Simulator is the ridiculous nature of it all. It’s like Whose Line? The rules of physics are made up and the points don’t matter. You’re not point or achievement farming. You are in it for the ridiculous chaos and destruction that you can cause in a small parcel of land as a goat. You’re crashing through windows, destroying carefully decorated housing, exploding cars, goring people and generally making a nuisance of yourself. If you can enjoy the ridiculousness of a goat causing millions of dollars in destruction with intermittent physics freak outs and not much else, you’ll love this game.

In addition to the chaos and destruction, there are secrets for you to discover. While it seems like a pretty confined area of one street with houses on either side, if you do some exploring, you’ll find some collectibles and secret areas with new or different things to do. Accessing some areas unlocks new abilities or just strange things to do. There are also a couple of minigames scattered throughout the map, including a Flappy Goat game. Other than the physics comedy, finding these will bring you back a couple of times.

While most games’ gameplay is going to be evaluated subjectively, I think that Goat Simulator is so unique that it may be the most down to personal taste of any game I’ve reviewed. I really enjoyed it for the first hour I played it. The second time I opened it up, I found some more things so that made it pretty cool. By the third time, I was looking through the Steam Workshop for something new to try.

goat-simulator-screenshot-02I think the longevity of this game may come down to the Workshop. Without a lot of replayability, it’s going to rely on the Workshop for you to keep coming back for more Goat Simulator. Normally, I’m not one to factor replayability into a review but I think that the confined sandbox makes limited replayability into an important issue.

The game doesn’t look spectacular by any stretch of the imagination. The emphasis was on getting the crazy and wacky physics comedy right and I suppose that the Coffee Stain did that well enough. The graphics are serviceable rather than photo-realistic. The goats look good and there are a variety of models of them. Apart from that, don’t expect much in the way of model or texture quantity.

On the audio side of things, there isn’t a lot of variety in terms of the music but I was surprised at the number of sound assets there were. There’s voice acting that goes beyond screaming and grunting when you ram people. There are all sorts of sounds for footsteps and destruction. You won’t confuse this with a big triple-A production but it was better than I was expecting.

goat-simulator-screenshot-03Just because the game advertises itself being buggy and broken doesn’t mean that it should be buggy when you play it. Broken physics is part of the comedy of the game. Broken controls are a whole other matter. For example, I had a hell of a time getting the rotation controls to work and getting what was considered a successful, points scoring landing. If there was even a thirty-second tutorial, even outside of the main game, it would have helped immensely.

I also managed to phase through solid objects and into places where I got stuck. I’ve been in the attic above a garage, underneath the protesters’ stage and on the wrong side of the town wall. Each time, I had to hit the respawn button to get back to a playable state. At least that option is there. Considering there are many other games that have similar issues but punish you badly for a glitch, I guess I can’t complain too much.

I should also note that the game uses NVIDIA PhysX as the backbone of the in-game physics. I don’t have anything to compare it to since I don’t have a modern NVIDIA GPU to play the game on but my AMD setup hates PhysX, including in this game. If I got a lot of parts moving at the same time, which is easy to do in a house and you’re knocking over tables, chairs, people and complete dining sets, my framerate fell through the floor. It’s a simple looking game but it could still use some optimization for people not running NVIDIA rigs.

Conclusion

goat-simulator-screenshot-04The toughest part of assigning a review score to Goat Simulator is taking the bugs into consideration. Is leaving all the bugs in the game a design choice that adds to the game or is it just a developer being cheap and lazy in order to make more money? Is the meta nature of “bugs are funny and funny works in a comedy game” trumped by the fact that there are still bugs?

If if there weren’t issues I had with the controls outside of what was sort of deliberately left in by the developers, like the jetpack, I don’t think I’d be giving this an award-worthy rating. There’s not enough content here to justify the $10 price tag. Steamworks will help fill the void and give the game plenty of playtime and revisits over the next few months but I’m not reviewing Steamworks.

Goat Simulator is good for a laugh and I suppose that was the goal of the game. You’re not going to get Skyrim lengths of playtime out of this game out of this but I imagine that 200+ hours with a goat that defies the laws of physics would be enough to drive you insane. So the result is a good game whose limited scope keeps it from approaching greatness. Maybe with solid controls, I’d consider an 8.0 out of 10. Still, I’d rather play this than a first-person shooter.

Rating: 7.0/10

Goat Simulator was reviewed on and is only available for Windows PC. Your impressions of the game may differ based on PC specs, your sense of humour and how far your goat flies when it gets hit by a transport.

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About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on April 11, 2014, in Game Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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