Goat Rider is a game about staying on a moving goat.
The controls are one-touch, and the graphics look like they belong on an emoji palette (or part of a late ’90s computer cursor pack that would install every virus known to humankind alongside a tiny glittery unicorn icon).
Goat Rider is the kind of game you look at, play for ten seconds and wonder, “What is this mess? Am I being trolled?”
Then you find yourself still playing an hour later, in the early winter darkness, because you’re too enraptured to bother with the lights.
In hindsight, I should’ve immediately realized there’s more than meets the eye with Goat Rider (insert Transformer noise). The game is by BeaverTap Games, the same studio that brought us the mobile action classics Mikey Boots, Mikey Hooks, and Mikey Shorts. Simple as those games look, BeaverTap doesn’t half-ass anything. Each project involves their whole ass.
So while Goat Rider may fool you into thinking it’s a two-bit distraction, the reality is a little more complex.
You start each session on top of a goat. Now, in most life situations, “you start on top of a goat” would herald some whacky barnyard hijinks, and / or an impending visit from the local authorities. Goat Rider is an innocent game, however. As pure as the driven snow. As white as the flank of a freshly-washed goat.
When the game starts, the titular goat shuffles back and forth across the screen. When it moves right (backwards), it turns red. This is your cue to hold your thumb down on your device’s touch screen. If you fail to do so, the character atop the goat will gradually slide forward and be pitched off the beast. This ends the game.
When the goat moves left (forwards), your character will stay put. However, holding the screen will cause them to slide backwards, which is usually necessary to re-position them if they’re close to sliding off the goat and getting a game over.
While your goat does its little shuffle, the aforementioned emoji start pouring in from the sides of the screen. Upon closer inspection, you begin to see they’re not generic emoji, but recognizable characters. You may spot the Bitizen from Nimblebit’s Tiny Tower-style games. You may see the Crossy Road chicken. You may see Blockhead.
And when you spot them, you need to try and run over them. Doing so rewards you with experience. Every time you gain a level, you unlock a new rider.
Riders don’t differ from each other beyond looks. Trampling them and collecting them is merely for fun. There aren’t many other games out there that let a dog or a mustache ride a goat.