Since it has been about a week and a half since my last review, I decided to surprise you guys (or perhaps not) by doing my first and likely one of only a few pay to play games I’ll review: Goat Simulator. To describe Goat Simulator as a game would be a bit of a stretch of most accepted definitions of the word game. Goat Simulator can be best described as a ‘Comedic Physics Sandbox’. Since Goat Simulator is not a game, and because it’s pay to play unlike most games I review, the normal template I use for reviews isn’t adequate for reviewing this game. Instead, I’ll use a different template more befitting of a pay to play game, and will summarize the definition of each category at the beginning of each category. If I ever review another pay to play game, I’ll likely use a similar template, if not the same.
Game Mechanics: 8.0
As previously mentioned, Goat Simulator is a physics sandbox where players take the role of a goat in the middle of a town. As the goat, players can walk and run around, rag doll, jump, flip, headbutt and kick things, baa, slow motion, and lick things. Licking things is essentially Goat Simulator’s version of picking things up, as the goat’s tongue sticks to objects when you lick them. In addition, throughout the sandbox, there are various secrets that can modify the goat to allow for other various interactions with the world, ranging from pitching a ball, to having a jet-pack and flying around the level. There are a list of goals to complete, as well as a series of collectibles and achievements, but there are no linear goal or guidelines to playing, which is the primary reason Goat Simulator is less of a game and more of a sandbox.
Content: An important part of judging whether pay-to-play games are worth the cost or not is the amount of content in the game. A good guideline to judge this by is an hour’s worth of content for every dollar the game costs. This includes both first time play-through of the game as well as any replayability the game has. Unfortunately, this is one of the big areas that Goat Simulator is lacking in. While it is fun for a brief time, and will likely provide a decent number of laughs during that time, it quickly grows boring due to the lack of varying content. The one map currently in the game is not very large, and unfortunately, there’s only that one map, though that might change in the future. Personally, it only took about 3 hours to unlock everything and get all the achievements in the game. Goat Simulator does redeem itself a little in this category by including steam workshop capabilities, so it’s entirely possible that, if the game picks up a cult following, there will be a lot of user generated content, but unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that there’s so little official content for a game priced at 10 dollars.
Game Mechanics: Most games and sandboxes have primary mechanics that offset them from other similar games and sandboxes. After all, if they didn’t have these mechanics that offset them from other games, they’d simply be a clone of another game. Being a physics sandbox, one of the most important mechanics of Goat Simulator is how well the physics are handled. While the physics of Goat Simulator are not by any definition ‘realistic’, considering it’s designed to be comedic, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the unrealistic physics actually provide a lot of the humor of Goat Simulator, and are definitely fitting for that reason. There are a few times that the physics of different things interact in unexpected and incorrect ways that are less funny and more annoying than anything, particularly with the demon powers that can be unlocked, but overall, the physics are rather amusing. The ability to lick objects and drag them around is a fairly important and well implemented mechanic as well, as it allows setting up hilarious object interactions and scenarios.
Theme: Theme in this template is the same as in the standard criteria template, consisting of both graphics and audio, as well as narrative. In Goat Simulator, there’s no real narrative, but there is the fact that the player is a goat, rather than a human. This is referenced specifically a few times in the game, but perhaps could have been touched on a bit more, or been a major focus for more of the hidden things. The audio of Goat Simulator is actually really well done, with the sound effects sounding either hilarious or realistic. One of the funnier things Goat Simulator has to offer is when a lot of things are happening at once, and these sound effects blend together into one unexpected conglomerate. The music is even unexpectedly good. The graphics on the other hand are just okay. They’re not amazing for the most part, but they’re not bad either. For the most part, they’re fine for the purpose of a physics sandbox.
UI: Again, UI in this template is the same in the standard criteria template, dealing with controls, menus, and HUDs, all the aspects of interaction with the user. Firstly, the menus are all decent, simple, and easy to navigate. The options menu seems a little jumbled around, but is still fully usable. The HUD is also rather simple and easy to use, with most everything on it dealing with your score. In addition, there’s also a challenge section of the HUD that initially helps teach the player a little bit of what to do, then simply acts as a way to give players goals. The controls are the only issue with the overall UI, and only on rare occasion. If the player unlocks multiple secrets that provide their goat with multiple special abilities, all the abilities are bound to the same key. As previously mentioned, several of the abilities interact in poor ways with each other, so it would be nice if there was a way to either bind them to different keys, so the players could enable specific powers, or if there was a sub-menu the player could enter to enable and disable certain powers while in the middle of the game, instead of having to create a new, custom game and do so.
Optimization: Optimization is important in full, PC pay to play games due to the fact that these games tend to be more graphics and CPU intensive, running well on some systems, but perhaps not running as well on older systems. The higher budget a video game is, the more understandable it tends to be that a game may not run well on higher quality systems compared to a lower budget game, due to the technology that budget allows the company to use in their game. This is one of the easier categories to review, as it’s simply a matter of how well the game performs at various settings compared to other games that come out at similar times. Unfortunately, Goat Simulator is awful in this category. Even with all of the graphical settings turned to their lowest settings, I still had to lower the resolution to 1280 x 768 in order to run the game at a decent framerate. Even at these settings, there were times that the framerate would slow to about 15 fps. There is even a specific location that, at these same settings, my framerate dropped to 1-2 fps, which is utterly ridiculous for any game, especially a ten dollar comedic physics sandbox. In this same location, I set all settings, including resolution, to the lowest possible option, and it still consistently ran at 1-2 fps.