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A Serious Review of the Critical Reception of a Completely Absurd Game

What happens when you analyze the reviews of an absurd game like Goat Simulator? Much like the game, the results are all over the place.

Everyone remembers where they were when they first saw Goat Simulator. For me, it was at E3 in 2014. I hadn’t heard of the game and as I walked the floor, I saw a booth that featured a certain plucky Goat. I chuckled at the thought of it, because in an industry with a lot of off the wall ideas…this was crazy.

When I saw the gameplay, my reaction was the same as many other gamers – “Wow, this is absurd…I need to play it.” Since being introduced to the game, I have played it on PC, Xbox One, and on my phone. It’s very entertaining, but also very silly, and each play session leaves me laughing about something I hadn’t seen before.

With a PlayStation version being released next month, we thought it would be a good time to look back at the critical reception the game received when it was first released. An objective post mortem of a game like this allows the publisher and developer to have a shared perspective of what worked and what didn’t work. Our particular methodology uses text analytics and keyword analysis for both positive and negative reviews to develop a quantified understanding of the themes that most significantly influenced a reviewer’s assessment. This is very helpful when looking at competitive titles, as it can help guide the development team for future projects.

For Goat Simulator, we looked at 39 reviews for the initial PC release, which had scores ranging from 20 to 100 (all scores were normalized on a 100 point scale). There is sometimes controversy about what these scores mean, but with a range like this, it’s clear that press reception was all over the place.

Some of the specific areas that reviewers enjoyed were (not surprisingly) the comedy/absurdity of the game. This was mentioned in almost 80% of the positive reviews. Easter Eggs and Exaggerated Physics were also frequently mentioned in positive reviews, and differentiated the positive reviews from the negative ones. The Size of the World and Replay Value exclusively showed up in the negative reviews. So if you are working on another farm animal simulator, these are some of the areas you may want to focus on, in order to increase positive reception of the game.

Another aspect of Goat Simulator that differentiates itself from other games was Coffee Stain Games’ decision to leave non-game breaking bugs and glitches in the game. Reviewers had a mixed reaction to this with some citing it as adding to the comedy, while others saying it didn’t contribute to the gameplay or expressing frustration at having to respawn when they got stuck.

At Insights Meta, we have reviewed the reviews of many games in the past, but this was one of the most unique games we have ever explored in this manner. We’d like to share the full report with you, so you can download it, for free, at insightsmeta.com/goatsimulator.

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