“Goat Simulator 3” (the game’s first joke is that “Goat Simulator 2” doesn’t exist) seems to take itself much more seriously than its predecessor. That’s not to say the unbridled, slapstick humor of the original is gone; the sequel still conducts itself with the propriety of a huge fart joke. You can always headbutt passers-by from a skyscraper. You can set everyone around you on fire by dozing yourself with gasoline. You can bring people to tears by constantly bleating in their face.
The main difference is that “Goat Simulator 3” no longer relishes that one-note joke, with the sequel proving to be a much more polished experience. For one thing, getting stuck in objects or falling through the floor doesn’t happen as frequently as the former. And then there’s “Goat Simulator 3″‘s decision to anchor its comedic routines to the joy of exploration. The discovery of Easter eggs, gags, gaming and pop culture references, and other occurrences is what drives the game, rather than the propensity to perform genocidal stunts with a rag goat.
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One of the things that made the first “Goat Simulator” shtick go out of fashion so quickly was its limitations. In the original, there are only two areas to gallop through, and they’re pretty vanilla aside from a few interesting sights, like stumbling upon a Deadmau5 concert. But in “Goat Simulator 3”, there are several towns and locations, each bursting with life and vibrancy, to explore. There is a food factory that makes fake bananas. There is a graveyard where ghosts can be tormented and dragged from their graves with your rubber tongue. There is an incredibly rad huge bouncy castle. By highlighting them as places of interest with a symbol on the map, “Goat Simulator 3” encourages exploration. How you get there is up to your own discretion (the goat can now confidently handle a steering wheel, so Grand Theft Auto is a totally viable option).
If one goat isn’t enough, you can also invite up to three friends to engage in goat chores and terrorize the town together – a new feature that helps significantly extend the life of the shtick. “Goat Simulator 3” includes multiplayer minigames, such as Car Derby, Prop Hunt, The Floor Is Lava, and other derivatives of popular minigames you may already know from titles like Mario Party and Garry’s Mod . You can launch these minigames from anywhere on the map, often adding to the chaos, and they’re good for spending time in “Goat Simulator 3” with friends. While the most fun is the freedom to frolic with your belligerent goat buddies through these cities, laugh together at the absurdity of your collective chaos and leave a smoldering trail of destruction in your wake.
The game also features quest-like features called “Events” and “Instincts” to inspire mischief. Think of events as mini-riddles you can solve, with vaguely worded descriptions serving as barely any clues (“Take care of the flowers in the garden”). Instincts are simpler achievements you can unlock (“Do a 720 degree backflip”). It’s also how “Goat Simulator 3” gradually emboldens your curiosity, as you entertain fleeting thoughts like “Can I dive a bomb into a grieving crowd amid their funeral procession?” – then scratch that itch. Still, “Goat Simulator 3” is at its best when you trot just where your hooves take you, free as the wind, and fall into those random snafus.
Witnessing how the unlucky residents of “Goat Simulator 3”, including the world itself, will warp in response to your antics is another part of the joys of the game. Even something as mundane as entering a gas station could result in complete pandemonium. In one instance, I walked into the path of a passerby, who got angry at this act of audacity and attempted to kick me. Unfortunately for him, he missed, his foot knocking an innocent bystander into the wall instead. The pillars supporting the roof of the gas station immediately disintegrated, the roof collapsed and this triggered explosions of fire. The fire truck drove past, but then slammed into another vehicle, causing another series of explosions. It’s a demonstration of the butterfly effect in play, and it’s downright hilarious.
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There are also a host of other activities to keep your goat busy. “Goat Simulator 3” now features unlockable costumes, which you can purchase with points you earn from events and instincts, collect after completing specific events, or pick up while exploring. Some costumes are just cosmetic, like having your goat wear a dumbbell in its mouth or don a silly straw hat. But others come with abilities that can help you with your high jinks. Gravity helmets float nearby people, and a saddle lets you hoist a nearby victim onto your back. A personal favorite is a costume that is just a grumpy old woman shooting balls of yarn with a cannon. Tons of collectibles, like glittering trophies that hover precariously at the end of a crane, are ripe for hoarding.
Perhaps the biggest problem with “Goat Simulator 3” is that it plays every gag and misfortune as if it were a punchline waiting to be delivered. Any act of clowning is celebrated with an exaggerated exclamation, complete with a sort of “ta-dah!” sound effect that congratulates you for the good prankster that you are. Then there’s ‘Goat Simulator 3’s’ act of flaunting pop culture references as if their very appearance was the joke itself – something I call the ‘Ready Player One’ effect, where your enjoyment of the film depends on recognizing as many pop culture references as possible. While sometimes funny, these don’t really work as good in-game jokes.
There are funnier games, from the polished comic diction of “Untitled Goose Game” to the sardonic humor of “Portal.” But it’s the thrill of uncovering ridiculous scenes and the thrill of digging into every crook and nook in search of more absurd secrets to uncover that elevates “Goat Simulator 3” above the original game’s one-note joke. . Take a long walk down a quiet street or hitch a ride in a moving van to the next town. Perhaps you will spot the Sigil of Baphomet or come across a clandestine group of occult worshippers, hidden behind the dense foliage of bushes and low trees. Slide a scarecrow into a satanic circle or two, and see what unfolds; it’s usually an unexpected treat.
Khee Hoon Chan is a freelance writer who lives on the internet. You can read more of their plays hereor ask them about the weather on Twitter @crapstacular.