I’ve been playing Goat Simulator off and on for a little while now, and I’m firmly convinced of one thing: This might actually be, no kidding, one of the best games of the year. If nothing else, it is decided worth every penny of the ten bucks it will cost you.
Goat Simulator is, by the developer’s own admission, stupid. In fact, they tell you on the website that your $10 is better spent on an actual goat. But it’s actually a rare achievement they should be proud of, however accidental, in that it’s a video game that’s effortlessly funny.
Comedy in video games is hard, because video games are an art form that rely on player agency. Too often, comedy in gaming is forced in through the writing and dialogue instead of the mechanics. This can work: Portal is a superb example of written comedy, but take out the comedy and you still have a great game.
It’s much harder to make a game that is inherently funny, where the comedy is so tightly wound to the mechanics that the two are inseparable. The history of gaming is littered with failures along these lines. And yet, that’s exactly what Goat Simulator achieves.
Coffee Stain Studios essentially puts comedy in the hands of the player based on the absurd premise; namely, that you’re a goat, and goats are jerks that cause ridiculous amounts of property damage. The achievements are, in essence, the game. You have to destroy things, get hit by cars, bounce off trampolines, and generally trash the game world to increasing degrees. In other words, the game sets up the jokes, and it’s up to the player to deliver the punchline however they see fit.
Another part of the comedy of Goat Simulator is the game’s embrace of its buggy, ugly nature; Coffee Stain will only fix the game-breaking bugs. Everything else, from the grotesque ladder-climbing animation to the various other ridiculously silly bugs you’ll find, stays.
Coffee Stain only reluctantly put out the game due to overwhelming consumer demand. They clearly view it as a goof, but money is money. That said, it’s worth paying for and playing, because it’s unique, and most importantly, actually funny. The game itself may be a goof… but developers looking to bring more comedy to their games could stand to take notes.