While the free section of Apple’s App Store can sometimes make it seem like we’re living in an Idiocracy, some weird stuff occasionally finds a way to take off on the paid charts, as well. The latest such oddity is Goat Simulator, a game that gives you a small town to wreak havoc in as the titular farm animal.
While it generally takes a lot of great content (or an emotional treadmill) to get people to pay for games on their phones nowadays, Goat Simulator has done well at $4.99 even though there’s not that much in the way of content — there’s only one town to mess around in and one set of achievements to complete. Despite all that, Goat Simulator has managed to hold the No. 5 slot of the top paid apps on the App Store for several days, and is also available on the Google Play and Steam (where it is $9.99, as it has enhanced content for PCs).
How does the game keep you hooked? As with Minecraft or Garry’s Mod, Goat Simulator keeps you interested by providing opportunities to perform increasingly stuff in the same world that you only figure out how to take advantage of after toying around with each part for a while.
Starting off, you realize you can bounce around the pen with other goats. Then you head-butt one and it collapses in a ragdoll animation that’s too absurd to call violent. You lick it (I am not kidding, this is one of the biggest on-screen controls) and you realize that it attaches the other goat to yours with a long, elastic cord. Moving around, the other goat is flung around as if your goat has super strength. While flailing this other goat around, you decide to attack a parked car, and it explodes.
Blown halfway across the game’s small town, your goat stands up, undamaged. Suddenly, you start to realize that this goat can do whatever the heck it wants.
There are achievements and quests in Goat Simulator, though you’re never explicitly told what to do. Instead, most of them are like the goals in the old Tony Hawk games — you’re told something vague, like “Become the Queen of the Goats,” and you just have to explore around until you figure out what the game actually wants you to do. That’s not a criticism — the exploration is where all the fun stuff happens. But when you do figure it out, you’re rewarded with more absurd humor.
In between completing those goals, you rack up points for basically everything you do — jumping on a trampoline, smashing boxes, and such — with higher numbers given out for crazier antics. Together, the mechanics incentivize getting your goat into as much trouble as possible. Thankfully, the game’s controls don’t seem to get in the way of that too much, even though you have to rely on the touch screen when playing on a phone or tablet. That’s partially because of the overall insanity happening on screen. Every time I thought, “Why can’t I control my goat very well when it’s wearing a jetpack?” I realized that I had answered my own question.