Untitled Goose Game turns a village into an empty canvas onto which the protagonist can paint masterpieces on the theme of being a jerk
It seems that, among the many rules that dictate the way the reality of the universe will unfold, there is one large and inescapable law that declares all idyllic villages out there must have a figure that disturbs their peace or, from a more devilish perspective, makes them entertaining. Sometimes, it is the bored old lady who likes to thread inflated webs of gossip out of the most innocent happenings; sometimes, it is the local drunkard who embarrasses himself on a weekly basis in front of everybody’s eyes; and sometimes, it is a group of teenagers whose behavior is a bit too wild for the general tranquility that dominates the place. The charming village depicted in Untitled Goose Game, however, even if carrying all of the staples one would expect out of such a location, strays a bit from the norm due to the unique nature of the looming threat that lives nearby: a goose that also happens to be a major jerk.
Now, being an awful nuisance is not exactly news to these birds, as noted by several scientists who have studied their demeanor with care and by anyone who has ever walked close to a lake that serves as their home. Geese let out maddening honks that frighten children, annoy adults, traumatize babies, and scare any nearby human beings who are mildly distracted; they activate their attack mode with stunning sneakiness and speed, suddenly converging like a gang of criminals on unsuspecting onlookers that thought they were safe and sound; and they walk in a way that makes it seem like they are always in the process of executing some devious plan.
The star of Untitled Goose Game is not different, save for the fact that the waterfowl in question acts alone rather than as part of a visible organized unit. Yet, despite that apparent disadvantage, it manages to somehow surpass all of the other members of its species when it comes to being an obnoxious little twit, because – one day – it simply chooses to walk into the village close to its home and ruin everybody’s day. There are no details mentioned on its certainly existing past life of crime; no explanations given about its motivations; and no clues revealed regarding its affiliation, except for the suspicious fact it has somehow acquired pieces of paper with lists of pranks that must be performed. There is only a goose, a village, and the unshakable rules that say the former must annoy whatever living creatures are nearby and the latter must be preyed upon by some dark entity.
And so, guided by those natural laws, Untitled Goose Game walks like a dunce into the Nintendo Switch. Controlling the titular character, players will not have many actions at their disposal, as – restricted into the body of a goose – they will only have access to what these birds do, which is honking, walking, swimming, running, flapping wings for no reason whatsoever, ducking, using the beak to interact with the world, and being an insufferable jerk to pretty much everyone. As it turns out, it is in that last action where the fun, originality, and creativity of Untitled Goose Game can be found.
Working like a small but pleasantly interconnected, detailed, and intriguing setting, the village that will inevitably fall victim to the pranks of the game’s anti-hero is divided into five areas, with each of them opening up after all the high jinks that need to be carried out in the previous one are pulled off. Smartly, the zones are individually set up like self-contained sandboxes, meaning that there is a good degree of freedom in terms of what can be done: the objects with which the goose can interact are plentiful; the environments are pretty open-ended, allowing the bird to move around as it sees fit; the goals can, for the most part, be cleared according to gamers’ wishes or as they figure them out; some activities may be done in more than one way; and the jerk moves that can be executed go far beyond the ones that are written on the sheets of paper.
A huge part of the charm of Untitled Goose Game, therefore, lies in how players will be able to tackle it at their own pace. If they want to go straight for the jaw and cross items off the list, they can do just that; but if they feel like playing around with what the environments offer and with how characters will react to what the goose does, that alternative is equally engaging and fruitful. At the same time, being stumped rarely becomes a factor, as even if they have trouble figuring out how to carry out a certain task, gamers will always either have random shenanigans to perform or other goals to pursue. As such, Untitled Goose Game is a treasure trove that just keeps on giving to those who are willing to explore the deeper reaches of their nasty side.
The game’s highlight, though, certainly is the sheer variety of utterly irritating objectives the goose needs to take care of. There is the dedicated gardener players have to get wet; the neighbors whose prized possessions need to be destroyed; the poor innocent kid that must be locked into a telephone booth; the shopkeepers whose establishments are about to receive the most destructive customer ever; the pub dwellers who will have an unexpected intruder alter their moment of relaxation; and the absurd amount of items that can be stolen in a myriad of ways, from sneaking around to simply grabbing them and running away from an angry human. A similar diversity can be seen in the complexity of these tasks, as they alternate between being as simple as pressing a button at the right place and at the proper time to forcing players to carefully trigger a chain of events that will lead to catastrophic results.
It is a formula that is as hilarious as it is original, and it is highly unlikely there is a gamer out there that will be untouched by its oddity. Furthermore, all the pieces that constitute Untitled Goose Game seem to uniformly contribute to highlight the wackiness and the humor that naturally lives inside the idea of a title centered around an asshole goose. Its visuals, despite the fact they blatantly announce the effort’s status as an indie game made inside the constraints of a short budget, fit like a glove alongside the overflowing quirkiness of the concept: the faceless characters express their emotions through noises and extravagant body movements, which accentuate the humor; and the absolutely basic art style leaves the stage free for the adventure’s protagonist, the objects with which he interacts, and the people which he annoys to take the reins of the show.
Meanwhile, the soundtrack is equally effective in its simplicity, with its authentic spirit being especially noteworthy. Through most of the way, Untitled Goose Game is a pretty quiet title: all one will hear is complete silence punctuated by the accurate and realistic sound effects emitted by the objects, the people, and, of course, the honking goose. Every once in a while, though, the lack of music will be interrupted by free-flowing piano lines, which border on improvisational jazz, that end as suddenly as they begin. What they bring to the table is a light touch of hilarity that appears to have come out of a Charlie Chaplin silent comedy movie, briefly pointing out the total ridiculousness that exists in the situation that is being shown, which, in the case of Untitled Goose Game, is a goose walking into a village and insisting on making everyone’s life entirely miserable.
Overall, there is not much to complain about Untitled Goose Game. In spite of a couple of moments when its controllers could have been better handled, the title just plays marvelously, as its automatic camera angles are impeccable and the fun that is extracted out of its concept is fulfilling. Moreover, its level of difficulty is just about perfect, because the biggest part of the challenge is in figuring out how to do what is demanded instead of in actually pulling off the tasks, a trait that allows both kids and adults to jump into it seamlessly. A sour note, though, has to be made regarding its length, which is undeniably way too short.
Getting to the end of the adventure’s final area should not take the average player a lot more than two hours. Thankfully, though, after doing so, the goose will gain access to two extra lists of goals: one with an additional dozen pranks that will, at times, demand that objects be transported between the five zones, something that never happens in the core game; and another that is nothing but a time-based challenge in which the areas must, each, be cleared under the six-minute mark. Sadly, although these extra doses of content do work towards extending the experience to a certain point, they are still not quite enough to stop one from wishing there had been a little more meat to the package.
Yet, from a brighter point of view, the inevitable desire for more that will come when players get to the end of Untitled Goose Game is a testament to its greatness. Because, surely, the idea of being an obnoxious goose running around a village and unleashing chaos all over the place is, by itself, unique enough to catch the eye of anyone who bumps into it. However, concepts are ultimately only as great as their materialization, and, in the case of the effort by indie developer House House, it gains shape in a way that is smart, humorous, and charming. Untitled Goose Game is clever in the sandbox-like presentation of its gameplay, which turns the village into an empty canvas onto which the protagonist can paint masterpieces on the theme of being a jerk; it is hilarious in the combination of its visuals, soundtrack, and animation; and it is lovely because if there is one creature that can get away with being an asshole while still retaining its funny aura, it is certainly a goose.