Untitled Goose Game (2019)
House House | Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Giving it a gander
The Untitled Goose Game was released on Friday, September 20, and based on the title, you can pretty much guess exactly what you’re going to get. As a Canadian, I feel a close connection with geese generally (this is a lie) and believe they are extremely majestic creatures (this is also a lie). They were rampant at my university campus, and I learned quite quickly to a) walk out of my way to avoid them, and b) never make eye contact. They can probably smell fear. So needless to say, I was pretty excited to play as one of these contentious creatures – and that’s the truth. This game, put simply, was utterly hilarious. In Untitled Goose Game, you get to play as the Goose™ and while you will have a to-do list that encompasses a means to your own ends, most of your activities will, coincidentally, involve terrorizing the local villagers. If you’ve ever wanted to play a game where you get to be the villain – this one is for you. Geese are not exactly known for being lovable creatures, and your goose is no exception. Mild spoilers ahead!
The game opens with the unfortunate gardener, who happens to be your first victim. His fence is blocking the most convenient way into town – you’ll have to do something about that. The game follows a similar structure throughout – you’ll encounter a certain area, with NPC(s), and work on completing the to-do list the game provides. Once you’ve accomplished all your goals, a path to a new area of the village will open up. From there, you’ll be able to progress to the next poor unfortunate soul who woke up that morning, thinking they were going to have a pleasant (goose-free) day. The gardener that serves as your first trial (a tutorial of sorts) has a to-do list with items such as “Make the groundskeeper wear his sun hat” and “Make the groundskeeper hammer his thumb.” Each unique section usually has a more involved goal of collecting a bunch of items for a specific purpose – in the Garden area, you’ll be setting up for a ”picnic’ (don’t forget the radio).
I honk in your general direction
The game operates around a basic idea of stealth-gameplay – while an NPC spotting you isn’t necessarily a big deal (depending on who it is), you definitely don’t want their attention when you’re dragging heavy items around, or trying to make off with their precious stock, lest all your hard work be undone. For the bigger tasks, you’ll want to set up distractions to keep these townies busy – like destroying the shopkeeper’s displays. While she’s busy picking up her umbrellas, and plugging her radio back in, she’s not chasing you with her broom – which leaves you free to sneak off with some fruit and veg. As a goose, you’re not terribly fast, so you’ll want to keep these villagers busy while you waddle around, performing your fowl (haha) deeds. The controls can feel a bit on the heavy side – in order to make tight turns, you’ll need to release B (held down to run) or else feel like you’re steering a tank.
Small nitpicks aside, I actually really enjoyed the gameplay in this title – the puzzle elements are surprisingly clever. You might see a to-do list item like “Get dressed up with a ribbon” or “break the dartboard” and think to yourself, how the heck am I going to accomplish that? But everything is fairly intuitive, and through some combination of trial and error, watching NPC patterns, and interacting with items, you’re able to get everything done. I genuinely had a great time trying to figure out how to execute these tasks – and even more fun harassing the villagers. With a dedicated “honk” button – arguably essential in any kind of game involving geese – it is endlessly satisfying to waddle up behind unsuspecting fools to HONK and scare the living daylights out of them. They might jump or fall over, or even choke on their tea, but regardless, it just never gets old. I feel as though I may have gained a slight understanding of why geese are such assholes. I often found myself – after triumphing over an already-downtrodden townie I’d been harassing for 20 minutes – doing a celebratory circle-waddle-while-flapping-and-honking, so yeah. “Live long enough to see yourself become the villain” and all that.
I think the best sections were with the shopkeeper in High Street, and the Back Gardens with the two neighbours. Scaring the young boy into hiding in the phone booth (and later forcing him to wear the wrong pair of glasses), and trying to fill a shopping basket with items from the shopkeeper’s display were both hilariously fun. I struggled way more than I should have with the shopping – the shopkeeper kept taking her items back and emptying my basket – but I was having a great time every step of the way. The two adjacent back gardens were designed well, and I enjoyed forcing the neighbours to slowly destroy each others property. In fact, all of the ‘levels’ or areas of this game are put together exceptionally well – critical items are cleverly positioned, and the physical layouts are intuitive enough to help you think through each scenario, with stealth in mind. I never found the puzzles frustrating or nonsensical, and I finished the game without having to consult any kind of guides or walkthroughs after getting stuck. Some good old experimentation and wandering around was usually enough to put me on the right track.
I ended up being obscenely invested in seeing this story through. Apparently, the goose was all about stealing the golden bell from the model village (and not for the first time, if its treasure pile is anything to go by). The final run through the village, while trying to be stealthy carrying a bell that’s constantly jangling and drawing attention, was genuinely tense. I waddled and honked my way past all the villagers (only losing my bell a few times along the way) and made it back to the beginning for the credits to roll. I’d absolutely recommend this game to anyone looking for a short, but exceedingly entertaining indie title. The graphics are polished and pleasant, and the gameplay is simple, yet fun – especially with the accompanying piano music. I know it’s become a sort-of meme already (I mean, the content is essentially parody) but it is, in fact, a surprisingly solid game. The handful of hours that I spent were thoroughly enjoyable, and nothing short of hilarious – even my mom enjoyed watching me play it. I’ve noticed that some extra items, post-credits, were added in a new to-do list, and I will unquestionably be resuming my reign of terror over these hapless villagers. What an absolute hoot. Or honk, I guess I should say.