Republished on Wednesday 1st January, 2020: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of January 2020's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
Let's not be sheepish: Goat Simulator has been designed to attract obnoxious YouTube neckbeards like a farmyard does flies. Stop for a second and consider the credentials: ragdoll physics, an oh-so random premise, and a PewDiePie-inspired slow-mo button that's always on-demand; add an ADD inflicted man-child to this bubonic broth and you have a fast-track ticket to success. But while it's just about as vapid as the web personalities that it seems so desperate to seduce, does this four-legged foray have its hoof in the right place?
Billy (goat) no-mates will find a play pen packed with braindead potential here. You play as a narky nanny who enjoys nothing more than setting fire to cars in exchange for high scores. The controls – unlike other silly simulations – are reasonably intuitive, with your bearded buddy able to hop, ram, and run with relative ease. Quests give the game the slenderest slice of structure, as you're asked to complete certain tasks, such as climbing to a specific height or staying in the air for a set length of time. It's just about as dumb as an anaphylactic washing down a Snickers with spoonfuls of Sun-Pat.
It's the Easter eggs that give the game any semblance of purpose. Rolling a boulder into the path of a hooning hick may not sound all that exciting, but it will get a giggle or two. The game – whether you play in the starting Goatville or the all-new Goat City Bay – is packed with little secrets which make exploring entertaining for an hour or two. A line of cocaine – not-so curiously re-purposed as sugar in this edition – will see you hallucinate when you lick it, while the cast of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles linger in a sewer eager to prevent your long tongue from coming into contact with Megan Fox.
The problem is that once you've partied on a hotel roof with Deadmau5 and smashed up Stonehenge, there's not really a whole lot to do. The combo system isn't anywhere near engaging enough to make this a score-chasing smash, and mini-games like Flappy Goat will only keep you occupied for a minute or two at most – by which point you'll be ready to repeatedly stamp on your console until it turns into a fine plastic paste. There are Mutators to unlock, which change the game's rules; the Angelic goat can float like Luigi, while the Tall goat is just a giraffe.
But like the release itself, these extras seem content with offering ephemeral entertainment rather than anything of substance. The four-player multiplayer mode – which is available in split-screen only – epitomises this, as you run around causing chaos until the novelty inevitably wears off. It is fun and it is funny – albeit in it a gormless sort of way – but it's unashamedly vacuous; it's the sort of thing that a superior being will one day study, and determine everything that it needs to know about the human race.
The thing is, while it may sound like it's – ahem – got our goat, none of this is necessarily bad. The title never assumes to be anything other than a daft distraction, and aside from some sloppy acceleration issues that have been introduced as part of the transition from keyboard to analogue stick, it achieves everything that it sets out to do. Collision hiccups, clipping, and framerate drops are prevalent, but not all that unexpected in an outing that flagrantly boasts that "all of the bugs have been left in". To be fair, you could argue that they actually add to the experience in a roundabout way.
Goat Simulator's nauseating stupidity has a certain je ne sais quoi, we suppose. You won't be feeding from this particular trough for all that long, but if you're willing to splurge on a headache-inducing afternoon of idiotic entertainment, then – incredibly – there are worse options out there. This isn't baaaad, but it's not the Greatest of all Time either.