What is it? A silly physics sandbox with a little more structure than its 2013 predecessor.
Expect to pay: $30/£25
Release date: November 17, 2022
Developer: Coffee Stain North
Publisher: Coffee Stain
Reviewed on: Core i5 12600K, RTX 3070, 32 GB RAM
Link: Epic Games Store
Goat Simulator 3, the second game in the Goat Simulator series, was faced with an impossible task: How do you make a bigger and better sequel to one of the foundational joke physics games, a genre predicated on being goofy, kinda shitty, and cheap?
Coffee Stain North's answer was to use Goat Simulator's foundation to make a collectathon 3D platformer a la Spyro or Mario 64. The result gave me some genuine laughs, but its clever moments are strung together by exactly the kind of samey, stultifying open world checklist experience Coffee Stain often skewers in its jokes. The result is better than the original, but not better enough to recommend.
The first Goat Simulator was a runaway sales success back in 2013. I look at it as an evolutionary missing link between Garry's Mod and newer efforts like Prop Hunt or Crab Game, but in our own review from the time, Andy Kelly awarded it a 30% and called it "a joke stretched way too thin," concluding that "beyond the eye-catching premise, it's just a bad, amateurish and boring game."
A little harsh, but I don't exactly disagree. I remember my friend bought Goat Simulator back then and we had a good two hours of fun playing it on his laptop in the dorm. Once we got our yucks in, we never touched it again.
The first Goat Simulator tasks you with racking up a high score in a small, volatile physics sandbox, using headbutts and a sticky tongue to destroy the scenery and harass NPCs. Add in a few easter eggs and clever features like a playable diegetic version of Flappy Bird (this is 2013, remember) and that's pretty much it.
In Goat Simulator 3, you have the same basic movement and interaction tools, with the very welcome addition of 3D Super Mario's escalating triple jump (wah, wah, wahooooo!) The new game's set in a larger map, with delineated sidequests and hidden collectibles to contrast with GoatSim 1's make your own fun ethos. Completing side quests builds out a hub riffing on the likes of Elden Ring's Roundtable Hold, and finishing all of them unlocks a final boss and fulfills Goat Simulator 3's "main quest."
I found the side quests pretty boring. They usually just ask you to headbutt something or drag a person or object to the correct location. I do appreciate their deliberately vague instructions, with experimentation leading to little eureka moments that can be genuinely funny and surprising. One quest asks you to save "Steve" from drowning in a spa. There's a guy clearly floating in the pond, but when you grab him you find out his name is "Not Steve." Rooting around in the water, it turns out one of the koi fish is actually named "Steve" and you have to drag it out.
As the Steve gag demonstrates, Goat Simulator 3's humor isn't confined to glitchy ragdoll antics. Each quest has a punchline, and even the dullest side quests had a twist or a gag that got a chuckle out of me. It just wasn't enough to get over the monotony of it all. After seeing everything and filling up the whole map, I entered the Open World Trance: open map, track objective, complete, rinse and repeat. It took me six hours to unlock Goat Simulator 3's final boss, and by that point, I was ready to do almost anything else.
There's no sense of escalation: You can pretty much get anywhere right from the get-go. I unlocked wings to glide like Spyro pretty close to the beginning of the game, and almost never took them off. This goat can also drive cars and physics glitches launch you into the sky at the drop of a hat, making it trivial to get anywhere you want to. It just felt perfunctory, like Coffee Stain introduced these elements of a more structured single player experience, but then you can slide around the whole map and see everything it has to offer within an hour or two. The demands of living up to its physics game roots clashed with its ambitions of being a more premium, substantial game.
There are a few highlights among the side quests. One pretty bare bones mission unlocks a hippie van wizard's pocket dimension made up of floating asteroids to hop around. It felt like those platforming challenges in Super Mario Sunshine that everyone either loves or hates, and Goat Simulator 3 would have benefitted from more levels like it.
Similarly, some of Goat Simulator 3's quests opened up to little referential side areas, with gameplay homages like those in the NieR series. The snob in me wants to say that reference is the lowest form of comedy, but Goat Simulator 3 commits to the bit with such conviction that I quite liked its little shout-outs. I definitely cracked a smile when the sand castle I made opened a portal to a recreation of de_dust2 from Counter-Strike, as well as when the game opened with a protracted recreation of the iconic cart ride from Skyrim.
Goat Simulator 3 also introduces online co-op multiplayer up to four players, as well as a selection of multiplayer minigames found through nodes on the open world. I wasn't able to test out those minigames for this review. The addition of online play is certainly welcome, since most games are more fun with friends, but sharing Goat Simulator 1's antics with my friend back in 2013 didn't extend its novelty for long, and I don't foresee that being any different here.
I find it hard to recommend Goat Simulator 3 to anyone. I got excited when I first booted it up, thinking the collectibles and puzzly sidequests meant it'd be like Mario Odyssey or Sable. But Goat Simulator 3 shows its entire hand quickly and I just got tired of it. Making an awful little goat do weird ragdoll physics stunts can be fun, but $30 is a lot to spend for that privilege at a time when the jokey physics game niche is packed with more options than ever.
Teardown and Bonelab have offered genuine innovations with their destruction physics and VR integration respectively, while the granddaddy of them all, Garry's Mod, is only $10 for a whole universe of modding potential. There are sparks of clever humor scattered throughout Goat Simulator 3, but as a whole, it's just fine: a competent slapstick goofball sandbox where a goat can run for mayor.