Goats kissing, grazing and collecting 8-bit junk is as wacky as it gets. It is a Jeff Minter game, and to those initiated the subject matter is not surprising. Minter has had a soft spot for animals, and hairy ones at that, for years. The development company Llamasoft has released a series of llama, Minotaur and psychedelic games for iOS. Minter is also known for quick arcade action, and that is what we get here in iOS digestible form. GoatUp is no revolution when it comes to gameplay, but it can mesmerize the player into a goat like state of trance.
GoatUp is a jumping survival game in the vein of Doodle Jump and PapiJump. Your goat has to survive by not falling down, or being eaten by evil yaks. The game also requires you to kiss goats, and graze the platforms for grass and items. A kiss, and enough grazing equal a new baby goat. The more babies following you the better, and they can also help in disposing enemies. Each extra baby goat also means an extra hit point. Once the game ends you get a game summary, and an overall summary. For some reason this still is enough for me to play one more time.
The controls are perhaps the weakest aspect depending on what device you use. There are three controls schemes: two touch based, and one touch and tilt. The touch based gives you an area to move the goat, and the other side of the screen is the jump button. On the iPhone this is a really awkward way of controlling, as you either cover up part of the screen, or glide off the screen completely. The tilt to move option works much better for me. I am not super quick in games using accelerometer, but at least I fail because the game gets hard instead of the controls getting in the way. For the iPad the controls work in reverse for me. The first time I played the game on my iPad 2 using touch controls I did far better than in the previous 50 attempts on my iPhone 4. On the larger device the tilt controls feels sluggish, and I rather avoid those. In the end I still think that both devices can be used to play the game, but if I want to beat my scores I go for the bigger option.
GoatUp is a surreal experience, and the graphics is a huge factor in creating this psychedelic world. Weird combinations of retro effects, iconic pickups and flashing shadow all help in setting my synapses on fire. This is not the kind of presentation usually gracing games in 2011, but rather it is something you only see from Llamasoft. It is unique, and to a lot of people it is more of a nuisance than pleasure. I love it, and every reference to the games of my youth sends chills of joy down my spine. There is no music, and the sound effects are quite limited. I really hope to have some sort of 8-bit music infused in future updates.
GoatUp manages to be a unique experience despite being just another Doodle Jump knockoff. Who could have imagined that kissing goats, grazing the land and jumping upwards could be so much fun. If the touch controls had been tighter for the smaller screens this game would have grabbed me even harder. Still I have an urge to know what fields lie above, and as long as the goat goes up I will keep at GoatUp.