Inspired by the baffling popularity and propagation of bargain bin simulators, Goat Simulator is a joke from the inside out, lifting its title from Euro Truck Simulator, Airport Firefighter Simulator, Ski Region Simulator and a litany of other woeful budget releases that really do exist. But rather than bog players down in the daily monotony of munching grass and getting caught in fences, your caprine avatar is a relentlessly sociopathic beast sprung straight from the flames of hell.
You’re dropped into a small sandbox and you’re set free to trot around and wreak whatever havoc you see fit to the environment and the scattering of civilians that reside in the area. There’s not a lot else to it, armed with a limited array of abilities that include running, ramming and licking (your tongue acts as a particularly effective adhesive that can drag objects and people around) to facilitate whatever nefarious deed you may have planned. You also have a button to bleat, obviously.
You get points for causing destruction, a multiplier keeping track of your score, enabling you to study the exact value of making a petrol station explode by headbutting it – sending your fearless goat cartwheeling across the heavens. It’s all hilarious nonsense, a mixture of outlandish physics and primed gags waiting to be provoked into revealing their punchline.
Goat Simulator is inelegant, plagued by bugs and is constrained in its design, making it easy enough to slate it as a (albeit it often amusing) physics demo featuring an intentionally peculiar player character. But it’s the fundamental set-up that proves to be both the least interesting and least enjoyable aspect of Goat Simulator.
Take a look at the list of achievements for the game and you’ll have some idea about how much Coffee Stain Studios has tucked away at the fringes of its game jam breakthrough. It doesn’t take long to discover all of its trinkets and secrets, but finding the UFO, or the uncontrollable jetpack, or even the slightly disturbing demonic altar energises what could easily have been written off as a one-note endeavour.
That’s not to say that Goat Simulator has an overabundance of depth, but it does have an inimitable charm and joyously infectious sense of humour that almost makes up for its lack of technical polish or overarching focus. At this point there’s only an afternoon’s worth of content available but it’s already captured the imagination of the community, suggesting that there will almost certainly be much more to get out of it in the coming months.
It might have started off as a joke, but the funny thing about Goat Simulator is that it’s a much better game than it has any right to be.