Have you ever wanted to be a goat, traipsing carefree in the country with a mouthful of cud and a cheery bleat in the heart? Have you ever wanted to scour the floor like a robot vacuum cleaner, sucking dirt with cold, calculating efficiency? Thanks to technology, now you can (at least virtually). Ingenuity, imagination, and the lack of good sense have come to our aid again, giving us proud products that prove humanity's potential for greatness (and everyone's ability to laugh at himself). The joke, as always, is on us, and so we look at five silly simulator games for the chronically and hopelessly bored.
1. Have Bus, Will Travel (Through the Desert)
All simulators expect you to spend some time playing the game, but Desert Bus beats the competition by demanding that you waste a good chunk of your lifetime on it.
Desert Bus operates on a simple premise, and the game's objective is as straightforward as a strip of highway. You are a driver, and you must travel through the desert driving a bus. Your journey starts in Tucson, Arizona and ends in Las Vegas, Nevada. In real life and in the game, this trip takes about eight hours to complete (nonstop, at forty-five miles per hour).
Desert Bus knows no other time but real time. The program wears its simulation badge with pride, so you must drive your virtual bus for eight hours straight. You can't hit the pause button because there's none, and you can't let the vehicle run itself. The bus continually tilts to the right, and taking your hands off the wheel will cause the bus to swerve and the bus' engine to stall. A stalled engine will earn you a trip back to the beginning (also in real time).
The game rewards persistence with boredom. The bus has no passengers, and the road to Las Vegas has nothing on it except you and your ride. You can't pick up hitchhikers, run over a coyote, or get a ticket for going over the speed limit. You will never spot a truck stop, a diner, or a gaggle of undocumented Mexicans along the way. The landscape before you isn't even interesting. Throughout the drive you will only see the road, the desert, the horizon, and the odd rock or traffic sign rendered in typical '90s graphics; throughout the trip you will only hear the steady hum of the engine over your own weakening sigh. In a sense, the game approximates what it's like to be married.
Desert Bus is actually a piece of protest software. Entertainers Teller and Penn Jillette, along with comedy writer Eddie Gorodetsky, imagined a program that will laugh in the face of video game haters (particularly those who are blaming video games for real-life violence). Their tongue-in-cheek approach resulted to what many consider now as the worst video game ever.
Desert Bus started out as a minigame in the Sega CD compilation Penn & Teller's Smoke and Mirrors. The compilation never made it to the market, though, as Sega CD crashed and the companies involved in the project went out of business in 1995. Desert Bus saw the light of day only because of journalist Frank Cifaldi, who rescued the game from the ashes in 2005. Today, Desert Bus is available for download in various modern platforms.
Fast Facts: The "desert" in Desert Bus is actually two deserts. Tucson sits in the Sonoran Desert, while Las Vegas is in the Mojave Desert.
2. From Dust You Came
Housework is the antithesis of video games. The two can never exist on the same space or occupy the same mind at the same time. They are as irreconcilable as whole milk and lactose intolerance, as disparate as Star Trek and Martha Stewart. Where one is dull, earthy, and decidedly feminine, the other is rousing, hip, and aggressively masculine; where one is unavoidable, noble, and ultimately necessary, the other is needless, senseless, and shamelessly trivial.
This gulf between housework and video games has nonetheless prompted a Norwegian software company to do the unthinkable. The banality of domestic life can make for good entertainment, and so Stolidus Simulations gave us Robot Vacuum Simulator 2013.
In this game, you are a robot vacuum cleaner. You don't get to enjoy the usual perks of being a robot, though (you don't get pneumatic joints, glowing eyes, or a slew of alphanumeric aliases). You don't get to scrap with anyone, either (you don't get to fight dirt monsters or save the housekeeper's nubile daughter). In Robot Vacuum Simulator 2013, you only get to collect crumpled pieces of paper.
Stolidus Simulations sidestepped an obvious marketing handicap by putting the word "robot" in the title, but that's not what makes this game truly special. Unlike other one-and-done simulations, Robot Vacuum Simulator 2013 is actually the second in a line of what promises to be a smash franchise. It may not leave other video games in the dust, but Robot Vacuum Simulator 2013 remains relevant in today's market just by sucking in the right places.
Fast Facts: The world's first commercially available autonomous vacuum cleaner was the Electrolux Trilobite. It was introduced to consumers in 2001.
3. Like Having a Buzz On
No one likes mosquitoes, but trust the Japanese to turn a hated critter into a novelty experience.
In Mister Mosquito, you play as everyone's least favorite dipteran. You must feed and store blood for the coming winter. Blood isn't really food for mosquitoes, and winter isn't actually relevant to these bugs, but scientific accuracy is the least of your worries when you're playing Mister Mosquito. After all, you get to fly around in this game as a multicolored cartoon critter that can manipulate light switches and turn radio dials. If you're expecting a realistic mosquito encounter, then this simulator will surely disappoint you.
Still, Mister Mosquito offers an overall unique experience. You have to suck, but timing and strategy are also crucial. The game equips you with various visual cues to help you in your bloody pursuit, but ultimately your success depends on control and accuracy. To up the challenge, Mister Mosquito requires you to strike on specific points. You can't just suck at someone's elbow and call it a day.
Video game enthusiasts will get a kick out of Mister Mosquito's quirky qualities, and those with voyeuristic tendencies will also like the game's subtle sexual undertones. The game features no nudity, but the sleaze factor remains high all throughout thanks to kinky music, double entendres, and the occasional moan after you pierce someone's skin. Mister Mosquito still leaves a lot to the imagination, but going down the racy path is easy once you start sucking away at your victims while they're in bed or in the shower. (The game's obvious pièce de résistance is Rena, the 17-year-old daughter of the Yamada family. Her thighs and other nether regions are given ample exposure in the game.)
Mister Mosquito came from Zoom Inc., a small Japanese developer. The game was brought to the U.S. by Eidos' Fresh Games in 2002.
Fast Facts: Mosquitoes don't actually feed on blood. For nourishment, they rely on plant sugars.
4. Because the Real Thing Isn't Always Enough
To some, drinking soda is just a thirst-quenching indulgence. To others, it's a fact of life, as necessary to the human experience as death, taxes, and cheese. To Will Brierly, an indie game developer from Massachusetts, it's an opportunity to spit in the eye of good sense.
It's not quite the answer to the prayers of those who can't get enough of the real thing, but Soda Drinker Pro still comes off as surprisingly refreshing. In this simulator, you get to drink as much soda as you want. You click on the left mouse button to hold the straw to your mouth, and you click on the right mouse button to sip. You get to walk around while finishing your drink, but that's just about it as far as gameplay goes.
You finish your soda, you go to the next level. Time is irrelevant. Bonus cups are all over the place, but they do nothing to prolong your sugar-suffused gander. When you're done, you get to take your sipping talents elsewhere. The game allows you to enjoy your drink in a park, at the beach, or in the cold vacuum of space. Your adventure ends after only 5 levels, but Brierly hopes to add more environments in the future.
Brierly coded Soda Drinker Pro in just 19 hours. He then posted the game online as a free download. Later on, he rewrote the whole thing in Unity, a cross-platform game engine. Soda Drinker Pro features about 100 songs (all composed by Brierly). It also includes the standalone game Vivian Clark (where you get to be whatever creature or object you touch).
Fast Facts: Carbonated beverages were the results of European efforts to recreate effervescent waters from natural sources. Waters from mineral springs were reputed to have strong therapeutic properties, so chemists from the 17th century began forcing gases into liquids.
5. Release the Ruminant!
A game where you get to be a goat is silly, but silly is what makes the Internet go round.
Goat Simulator owes its surprising popularity to a YouTube video. Swedish game developer Coffee Stain Studios uploaded footage of the title's alpha gameplay as a joke. The program was never meant for commercial release, but the company didn't count on everyone getting behind the game. The public clamored for the simulator to be published, and Coffee Stain Studios, in the end, gave in to the uproar.
Another YouTube upload followed the original viral video. "Okay [sic] Internet you win," Coffee Stain Studios admitted (in bold letters). At the same time, the company announced the coming of the game to the Steam platform. The studio solicited preorders, but made sure to remind gamers about tempering their expectations. "Goat Simulator is a small, broken and stupid game," Coffee Stain Studios warned. "It was made in a couple of weeks so don't expect a game in this size and scope of GTA with goats. In fact, you're better off not expecting anything at all actually. To be completely honest, it would be best if you'd spend your $10 on a hula hoop, a pile of bricks, or maybe a real-life goat."
Goat Simulator finally saw the light of day on April 1, 2014. The game had bugs, as promised, allowing for exaggerated physics and a completely durable hollow-horned beast. The game had all the destruction and comical surprises suggested by the two videos. Best of all, it retained the charm that won everyone over in the first place.
In the game, you are allowed to live out your maniacal, murderous, and masochist goat fantasies. You can roll a boulder down a hill and over an unsuspecting barbecue party, for example. You can get hit by traffic, jump from dizzying heights, or fly around using an uncontrollable jetpack if you want to. You can even rule a secret kingdom and gain magical powers.
Goat Simulator features missions to give you more cuds to chew on. Game goals vary from high-score objectives to trifling challenges that ask you to press certain keys several times. You can, of course, skip these optional achievements and just terrorize everyone with your destructive antics and your impossibly long tongue. The nonlinear gameplay gives you freedom to approach the game any way you want.
Goat Simulator includes in-play options like slow motion and rag-doll physics to further the laughs. Everyone can also modify the game via Steam Workshop.
Fast Facts: The term "scapegoat" was the result of a mistranslation. The English scholar William Tyndale misread the proper name of a Canaanite demon as the Hebrew equivalent of the phrase "goat that departs."