When they first heard of Goat Simulator, a lot of people said that it had to be a joke. In some ways they were right, but it’s here and like it or not it’s been making a few waves.
This was always going to be the end result of the bizarre popularity of Farming Simulator. The point when unintentional, hilarious stupidity became over-the-top, overt stupidity has been reached fairly quickly, and it’s actually quite unclear whether that’s a good thing. Self-aware humour is great, but when the creators don’t appear to be taking their product seriously, and recommend picking it up for two dollars, that’s an issue.
Discussing much of Goat Simulator’s actual quality is pretty moot, because almost nobody will take that into account when deciding whether to buy it. Still, for the sake of clarity, here’s a brief run through.
Goat Simulator is an open world game with a completely broken physics engine in which a goat with a terribly long tongue runs around smashing things. That’s it. There’s no quest, challenge, puzzle or story. Get goat, apply to town, destroy stuff.
There’s some level of exploration available via jetpack or by launching the goat from myriad trampolines and other objects that litter the environment. In addition, various modifications for the goat (including a Yoshi mode) are available and a selection of achievements add a little to the game’s life, but it’s not much more than an hour or so of entertainment.
The problem with Goat Simulator is that it was never designed to be good, it was designed to be silly. The problem is the idea that the two are mutually incompatible. There have been plenty of silly, funny games which made it to a decent level of popularity – Day of the Tentacle, to pick one at random – and plenty of unintentionally hilarious games whose humour came from their lack of self-awareness.
The difference between them and this though is that all those games were at least trying to be good. This feels cheap, as though the developers saw the opportunity to make a quick buck from the curious audience and, understandably, leapt on it.
From the stock 3D models to the absolutely dire physics engine that has the goat’s head flap around like it’s having a seizure, every inch of Goat Simulator gives the impression that it was made to be bad, and that’s not a good thing.
It’s harmful to the idea of gaming as an art form that this kind of thing gets an airing as a brilliant ironic joke. It’s damaging because it encourages the idea among gamers that all you have to do is make something half-assed and broken to become an accomplished comedian, and because it tells the non-gaming community that gaming isn’t to be taken seriously because its audience is impressed by that.
There are some clever ideas here – the score system giving enormous combos certainly helps replayability, for example – but mostly it’s a tired “destroy everything” simulator which lacks both Katamari Damacy’s sense of gradual progression and Garry’s Mod’s easy creativity tools.
There is some user-generated content by way of the Steam Workshop and presumably that will add value to an otherwise overpriced and underdeveloped game. However, in its current state and at its current price, it still doesn’t change the impression of a cynical money grabbing effort.
With a bit more development effort and time taken, Goat Simulator could have worked out as a fairly basic but solid comedy sandbox game. As it is, it’s an alpha, and well off being called a good buy.
Seemingly mindless destruction can be cathartic and entertaining, provided it’s designed in a way that’s conducive to those things. Actually mindless destruction just looks immature and cringeworthy. Goat Simulator is very much the latter of the two. That Flappy Goat game was pretty fun though. 35%