In a world of sequels and spinoffs and inspired bys, it’s always a treat playing something that captures a one-of-a-kind feel. As far as concepts go, Untitled Goose Game does just that, and does so with pride. You take on the role of a goose, just a goose, out and about in an idyllic countryside town. You’re also a jerk, out for your own selfishness and curiosity, unafraid to do as you please in the face of the citizens. While the game is ultimately a quick affair, that premise holds up and makes for an amusing game that welcomes experimentation with all it has to share.
press Y to honk
Untitled Goose Game’s gameplay is fairly simple, and by the end of its brief tutorial area I felt I could waddle around with the best of ‘em. Other than movement options (your basic waddle, a faster run, and lowering your neck), you have three key goose actions: using your beak, flapping your wings, and your own dedicated honk button. Once in town you’ll use these goose actions to make some mischief based on a to-do list, causing trouble and at times putting your puzzle solving and stealth to the test.
Something I truly appreciated in Untitled Goose Game was its minimalist approach. The graphics are simple, but clear — I never questioned what any object or feature in the game was — and the piano music floats in and out of the experience. It’s used to highlight actions and inform a situation (such as if a townsperson is aware of you or not), but balanced by occasional moments of silence (unless you’re extra honk happy). There’s no UI to speak of, only occasional white lines to indicate you can interact with an object and a notification when you’ve successfully completed a task or you unlock new ones. And interact you will, as while solving the game’s puzzling situations, you’ll find plenty of things to put your beak to.
The town is broken up into distinct sections, each with their own folk going about their day. Each of these is gated from the next based on your to-do list progress, though you don’t have to complete every task given. These range from stealing something from off a character’s person, tricking them into doing a certain task by moving things unseen, gathering up a cache of specified items before getting caught, and more. While some of these are clear in their descriptions (“steal the groundskeeper’s keys”), others get more abstract and less specific (“make someone buy their stuff back”; who, what stuff?) and got me trying as many possible actions and items as possible.
These are accompanied by some hilarious consequences, and ample opportunity to be a complete nuisance. In fact, Untitled Goose Game brought out the worst in me without even trying. I didn’t just steal the farmer’s keys, I took them all the way across a pond where the gent couldn’t reach them and locked him out of his garden. No extra reward, and I couldn’t even see the guy. But I knew I was taking my goosiness to new heights, and that was prize enough. From start to finish, I made multiple people fall, broke or caused the breakage of several things, disrupted a few small businesses, and startled everyone with my superlative honking.
Not the most graceful bird
How much enjoyment you’ll get out of Untitled Goose Game is directly proportional to how much you enjoy those sorts of moments, and how much you can think outside the box. In some instances, I was able to brute force progress by just running past a watchful person instead of distracting them first, but then I’d discover other solutions that were far more clever and stealthy with a little trial and error. Taking the time to make those moments happen by searching for as many interactables as possible made this goose’s day that much more special. The game made me want to see if stealing an old man’s harmonica and honking into it would work, and dammit, it did. Special mention must be made for the finale as well, which I won’t spoil but it’s definitely something to look forward to.
For all the praise the game’s core concept and inherent delight the game deserves, there are a few things worth being aware of. The game’s quite brief on an initial run, as I got the credits to roll after just a couple of hours. None of its to-do’s were all that difficult either, though some did warrant a little extra precision or thought-out timing. In answer to both of these misgivings though, completing the game did unlock extra objectives in every area as well as its own take on speedruns, tasking my now experienced goose skills with clearing a full list before the town bell rang.
What can’t be answered for, unfortunately, are the game’s occasionally finicky controls and some spotty AI. In my otherwise delightful day of misbehavior, there were times where movement would become somewhat stilted or obstructed without any clear reason. Likewise, sometimes a townsperson would get stuck off their pathfinding or in some kind of internal logic problem. Early on, I made a poor farmer freeze up completely in an existential crisis because he couldn’t figure out the best way to get to a pumpkin with some minor obstructions in the way. Another time, these two issues collided and I actually got stuck between a pub employee, a fence, and a table because there was no spot I could squeeze through save where she was chasing me from, and she would not give up that pursuit despite some particularly powerful honks.
Stretch out your neck proudly
Remedying those instances was as simple as restarting the game, with all my progress towards to-do’s intact each time but the areas reset to their pre-goose state. As each objective is for the most part isolated from the others, this was more a mild inconvenience than a game-breaker. They’re the kinds of problems that come from a game that dares you to try as much as you can within it. It’s still a notable tarnish on an otherwise sterling (albeit short) experience and hopefully worth the devs taking a gander at. Developer House House has something unique and engaging here for sure, and everyone should give it a try.
If you’re all for startling and schadenfreude, then Untitled Goose Game was made for you. It’s such a simple premise and thrives on its delightfully minimal execution, and brings back the kind of joy you only get from knocking over blocks or trying out that bit of slapstick you saw on TV with an ornithological spin. I haven’t been as curious about how I could get through situations with mundane objects like this since Ghost Trick, and I assure you: that’s high praise. Though the fun may be over before too long and the gameplay has some technical hiccups, it’s still one of the most amusing games I’ve had the pleasure of playing — perfect for a weekend afternoon.
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System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: September 20, 2019
Categories: Goose Simulator
Developer: House House