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09 November, 2016

Goat Punks Hands-On - "like competitive Donkey Kong, but with goats"

Four goats climb, one goat succeeds. In this multiplayer king-of-the-hill battleground, only the fleetest of foot can become the true mountain-goat king.

Goat Punks has to be one of the strangest party games I've played in recent memory. It's like competitive Donkey Kong, but with goats. I know that's an odd image, but stick with me, it'll all make sense.

Goat Punks is a splitscreen, competitive party game for four players. It has one simple goal: climb to the top of the mountain and stay there. It's the logical extreme of a "king-of-the-hill" game mode, boiled down to the bare essentials. And it works very well.

Goat Punks is easy to control, but fast and tactical when you get the hang of it. You play as one of four goats, each wanting to reach the summit of a sheer mountaintop and hold the summit for 30 seconds. That means racing up there, but also battling with other goats on the way. The mountain is circular, so you can move all the way around. And the steps are irregular, so there are always new ways to go and new platforms to leap to.

As you battle you'll find pickups and power-ups littered around the hill. These can aid you in your battle to the top, protect you from other goats, or send your opponents tumbling down the mountainside. You're on the lookout for everything from bombs, to shields, dashes and more. They're a big help in reaching the top before everyone else.

Holding the hill isn't just about waiting for your opponents to make it to your perch, either. When you're sitting on top, you gain the ability to rain fireballs down on your opponents like a volcano turret. As they climb, you hold your place and use the cursor to aim and fire. Any hits will knock them to the ground, but taking into account travel time of your shots and the speed of your targets can be a real challenge. Being on top can be just as stressful as climbing. One missed shot or a too-fast opponent, and you'll be back down the mountain with the sheep.

There are a number of different environments on show, from cityscapes to icy mountaintops and barren desserts. Plus, there are a number of goats to choose as your avatar. The short, 30-second timer for any one goat to claim victory always kept me on my toes, and meant that I was always looking for an advantage. More importantly, it also means that any one goat can still be in the running if they just get to the top in time.

Goat Punks is currently in development and coming soon to Steam Early Access. The game is well-suited to consoles, and is built on Unity, so we expect PS4, Xbox One and possibly Switch to follow at a later date. You can find out more here.

Nathanael Peacock

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