The unnamed goose in Untitled Goose Game is a bit of an arsehole. That’s what makes this game from developer House House such honking great fun. There are few things as delightful as picking up a game where you get to roleplay a mischievous goose who is taking some time off from doing typically goosey things to terrorise the nearby village.
That’s no exaggeration; it’s a bright, sunny day in the English countryside, the goose pops its head out of a bush with a gleam in its beady little eyes, and sets about a literal to-do list of deviously childish pranks that will have you honking and wing flapping in delight as you tick them off.
At its core, Untitled Goose Game is a sandbox puzzle game like no other. As a goose, you’re fairly limited in how you can interact with the world around you – it’s pretty much all pecking, ducking, honking and biting. You can also flap your wings a little, but that’s not a particularly useful mechanic outside of one very specific puzzle. The stroke of genius in this game is that, despite the limitations of being the world’s naughtiest goose, you have a phenomenal depth and breadth of things you can do.
The game is split between four main areas of the town – a garden, a high street, a suburb and the local pub. Each is connected and you can merrily waddle between them at your leisure, but to all intents and purposes serve they are self-contained levels. Each has its own characters, items and mischief-filled to-do lists.
The very first item on your list of devilish things to do is break into an old man’s garden. How you do this is entirely up to you; the game is ostensibly linear in that it has four defined levels, but there are no fewer than three ways you complete this one task. Do you pick up the radio to draw the old man’s attention and run through the gate when comes out looking to turn it off? Do you peck the tap that turns on the hose pipe, causing him to open the gate so you can slip inside? Perhaps neither suit your stealthy play style and you’d rather search the perimeter for the hole in the hedge and slip inside entirely unnoticed. Either way, this town is your oyster and you are the beady-eyed devil that rules it.
Other tasks that you get on this very first to-do list include stealing the rake and dragging it into the lake, having a picnic and making the old man hammer his thumb. As the game progresses you can lock a kid in a phone box, break someone’s prized vase, or steal someone’s slippers just for the hell of it. There’s absolutely no reason why a goose would choose to do any of these things in real life, but that’s what makes the game so incredible. It’s funny, it’s silly, and it’s an absolute delight to put in front of people and watch their reactions as events unfold.
Simplicity is a core concept in this game – with so few ways to actually interact with the world around you, it has to be. Sometimes that can frustrate just the tiniest bit, when you think that you’d done enough to snap at someone’s shoelaces, you get spotted from someone off screen – the camera’s focus can get a bit confused when shifting to frame different people, even at the maximum zooom – and you get buffeted when the slightly faster than you humans catch up to you. Things reset quickly though, the residents putting things back where they were or simply giving up and returning to their routines to let you try again.
But this minimialist theme runs through more than just the mechanics. The art style and colours are simple and vibrant, popping beautifully off the screen. The dynamic tinkles of piano in the soundtrack also work perfectly – it’s a little reminiscent of something like Pink Panther, the way it provides an underlying tension which builds to a crescendo when someone spots you carrying a harmonica. Suddenly you’re off, sprint-waddling your way around the garden, honking tunelessly into the instrument in delight while leading them on a merry goose chase, all just because you thought it would be funny. This game is your inner six-year-old being an absolute bastard to people and getting away with it because you’re freaking cute. I love it, and I want more games like this.
The only real downside I can give you is that the game is rather short. After just a couple hours, you’ll have honked havoc through the entire game, and while that means it doesn’t outstay its welcome, it does makes the £17 price feel a bit dear. Thankfully there’s a 25% launch discount that makes it much easier to snap up and there is also some end-game content, so even if you do finish it in an afternoon, there are things you can come back to a little later.