Many have been fascinated with Untitled Goose Game since it was announced in 2017, and with good reason. It’s a game about a horrible goose who honks at people and then steals their stuff. The game looked weird, quirky, and for some reason, that awful goose seemed compelling. Fast forward to the game’s release, and all of that remains true. Untitled Goose Game is the best game about a goose who is also a jerk, and it’s also a ton of honking fun.
The player takes on the role of the titular untitled goose, who can waddle, waddle fast, swim, pick stuff up, flap its wings, and honk. That’s it. The goose has a very simple arsenal to work with, but just watching that goose waddle around or try to pick to stuff up with its dumb goose face is immensely satisfying. This is partially because it’s the breakthrough moment in playing a goose in gaming, but more so because developer House House has clearly put a lot of thought into how the goose controls and how much fun it can be to just waddle around and honk away.
The game unfolds by following a to-do list (written in cursive and hopefully by the goose because that would mean the goose writes in cursive better than I do) of different tasks all related to annoying NPC characters. Whether it’s stealing their stuff, breaking their stuff, or actually causing them physical trauma. The game intelligently never tells the player how to carry out a task, it’s instead up to them to figure it out. For example, one task on the list is “rake in the lake.” As the player goose enters the first area (which is a garden with a rake) by swimming through a lake, enough contextual clues are provided to the player so they can piece together how to complete the task.
Each task is tied to a specific to-do list and location, of which there are a few in the game. The tasks get more complicated as the game goes on, with more characters likely to shoo away the goose, or more opportunities to mess something up and have to try again. Generally, all tasks have enough context so you can figure them out without having to consult the web, but it would have been nice if some tasks became more complex and spanning multiple areas as the game went on.
Being stealthy is usually the most effective way to complete a task. The goose is a big goofy bird, so if you’re not sneaky when trying to steal something from someone, you’re going to be noticed or get shooed away. This is where slowly waddling and watching the routines of characters come in. You’ll be spending a lot of time watching what each NPC is doing to figure out the best time to strike, and this is where the game shines. Hiding beneath a table, around the corner, or in a bush can be tense moments and require lots of patience, but doing all of this as a goose is a blast. I screwed up so many heist attempts by honking just because I wanted to see how the character I was watching would react; it’s criminally entertaining.
The game has a simple, blocky-style similar to last year’s Donut County, but the bright colors and animated gestures of the NPCs keep the game from looking low quality. The soundtrack is exclusively pleasant piano music that sounds like a cross between an episode of Mister Rogers Neighborhood and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, with certain encounters being punctuated with tense melodies, similar to the latter.
Getting to the end credits can be done in around three hours, but beating Untitled Goose Game unlocks new to-do lists, including speed run-esque tasks. It’s a very short experience, but the new tasks add fun iterations to the scenarios you’ve already completed, providing enough incentive to at least try them. Plus, the game automatically saves once you complete a task, making it very portable friendly if you’re playing on the Switch.
Untitled Goose Game has made a big impact despite being a small game. Its concept and execution combined with its style and personality make it a weirdly compelling and satisfying experience, even if the protagonist is a big jerk.
Untitled Goose Game is now available for PC, Mac and Nintendo Switch.
Review code provided by House House.