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Goat Simulator Review: Delightfully Baaaaaad

Platform:PC
Developer:Coffee Stain Studios
Release Date:4/1/2014

 

Of any game I’ve ever played, Goat Simulator is the one that has consistently made me laugh the most. From start to finish, it’s a veritable dump of sheer absurdity that is both awkward and joyful to play. Strapping my goat self to a jetpack and flying haphazardly around the map, sacrificing unsuspecting humans to become a goat demon, and climbing ladders as my head violently jerked and twisted around were all times when I would find myself laughing out loud in the confines of my bedroom. Heck, there were even times when I would stop everything and merely laugh at the fact that I was single-handedly destroying everything these townspeople knew and loved while playing as a goat.

Comedy is a tough egg to crack, particularly in video games. They’re often too referential, and the jokes tend to linger on the surface rather than sinking into a deeper place of commentary and meaning. That’s where Goat Simulator succeeds, however; from the very start, the game is a tongue-in-cheek madcap exploration about absurdity, freedom, and the very nature of game design itself. Everyone’s in on the joke, and it makes for a brilliant little experience that allows players to experiment and explore its systems in all the right ways.

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In Goat Simulator, you play as a mentally deranged goat with a love of mayhem and a penchant for destruction. Playing like a cross between Grand Theft Auto and Tony Hawk: Pro Skater, the game ropes you in a small arena-like slice of suburbia filled with secrets demanding to be uncovered. Nearly everything on the map is begging to be destroyed, special moves can be unlocked, points based on combos and achievements can be earned, secret areas can be uncovered, and while there are a handful of objectives put to you, the best way to play is to simply explore and interact with anything and everything on the map. If you see a curious spot on the map from a high vantage point, travel to it. If you see a collectible goat statue hiding in a particularly difficult place to reach, experiment with different ways to get up there. If you spot a curious item in a building, lick it. There are virtually no rules in Goat Simulator. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the point of the game is to break the rules.

Everything from the dorky soundtrack to the pained random cries of NPCs are hilarious, but the consistent punch line throughout Goat Simulator is its gross amount of bugs. I consistently became trapped in walls, attached to random objects, respawned without selecting such an option in the main menu, and watched as ragdolling pedestrians’ limbs became grossly overstretched like nightmarish insects in the street. In any other game, the sheer level of bugs and technical hiccups would sour the experience and leave it labeled as sub-par. In Goat Simulator, they’re the cherry on top of this devilish sundae, the unexpected oddball jokes that accompany the already-funny moments.

There were times when the bugs became annoying, however. When I was attempting to reach a blue shipping container held at the end of the crane, I became frustrated with the fact that any misstep would lead to a fall that would inevitably result in me getting stuck between the walls of the building below, with no escape option but to respawn and start again. The ability to respawn with all the upgrades and unlocked special abilities has been added to allow players a quick escape from such situations, but having to back track all over again to get back to that point often felt tedious.

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It’s also not impervious to the comedic troubles of most games. Many of its moments are outrageously funny the first time, but the jokes wear thin once they’ve been experienced a few times in a row. It’s the novelty of each encounter in Goat Simulator that pulled me in at first, but they overstay their welcome and lose their charm rather quickly. Truly, the only real lasting substance to be found in Goat Simulator are the questions that lie in the wake of all this rule-breaking and destruction; questions that we begin to ask about the most effective form of game design, the necessity of strict rules and objectives, and how realistic a game’s depictions must be to succeed.

Aside from its goofiness and joyful absurdity, this what makes Goat Simulator feel so unique. It subverts everything many have come to understand and expect about game design, tossing all conventions casually aside and merely asking the player to come in, break the rules, and have fun. Bugs occasionally make for frustrating moments, and its small map doesn’t offer a ton of content, but there’s just enough to make for a handful of hours entrenched in its blissful craziness.

 



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