Untitled Goose Game
I totally missed any marketing or hype surrounding the Untitled Goose Game. I simply stumbled across it today while logged into the Epic Store to claim 6 free Batman games. There was a video at the top of the landing page with that catchy title and it instantly chimed with me. I’ve had several run-ins with the Canada Geese at my local park over the years and so I’m somewhat familiar with their penchant for assholery and general douchebaggery. So a game about a troublesome Goose is not a big ask. The quirky animation style and colour palette really caught my eye, so I read the marketing blurb and then bought the game blind on a whim. So much for “advertising doesn’t work on me”, although I believe there’s more to my impulse purchase than meet’s the eye. But my respective psychiatric state is not what is being scrutinised here. The key question is whether the game is any good? Well, in short, the answer is a resounding “yes”. Allow me to elucidate.
Narratively speaking, Untitled Goose Game is both minimalist and succinct. You get to play as a Goose who leaves the local pond and sets out to bother a small village. There is a check list of achievements such as entering a garden, stealing various items such as keys or a rake and generally being an utter nuisance to the various humans you encounter. The controls are straight forward and logical. Once you’ve cleared the various achievements in one area you move on to the next and strive to get on even more people’s nerves. In gaming terms this is a very straight forward proposition. The systems are not complex although things are more challenging than you may think. But like any good game and by that, I mean a game that grabs you and hits the spot right from the get-go, the devil is in the detail. Untitled Goose Game boast numerous small, yet perfectly conceived, embellishments that elevate it.
The opening tutorial is not only functional but also clearly establishes the games pitch. You’re a Goose. An annoying, asshole of a Goose whose about to embark on some anatine shenanigans. The flat-shaded texture art style, point and click movement and comforting piano score (an adaptation of Debussy’s Préludes) intuitively come together the moment you waddle out of the bushes with an exuberant honk. The waddling is further bolstered by soft slapping of webbed feet. It’s a powerful start. Within moments you have totally bought into the MacGuffin that you’re a Goose, raring to cause mayhem and get on some people’s tits. And as you do so, it’s fabulous. Genuinely funny. Even cathartic.
There’s something incredibly benign about the whimsical world you get to explore. It’s filled with an abundance of objects to interact with and appears to be in some sort of temporal bubble. It has some superficial modern trappings yet is not overly complex. Is that a sixties vibe to the aesthetic and hints of The Prisoner? Or is it more Camberwick Green? Either way the style is captivating. Certainly there are elements from classic LucasArts adventure games with the puzzle solving elements. Yet this is superbly juxtaposed with the stealth elements which feel very modern. Some situations just lend themselves to going in all guns blazing. Other scenarios require timing and a measure of planning. If things go wrong it inevitably ends in a chase with more than just a hint of Benny Hill to it all. And all the time there’s the constant pleasure of hitting X and the spacebar to flap your wings vigorously and honk at all and sundry.
I suspect that developers House House are conversant with many other entertainment genres other than the video games industry. As mentioned previously it’s the attention to detail that is telling. There is keen awareness of the mechanics of silent comedy, of framing action cinematically and complementing the visuals with music. And if you really want to ponder Untitled Goose Game at a deeper level, I’d say it’s an incredibly soothing and therapeutic game. We live in very troubling times. All too often life is something that happens to us rather than something we participate in. Untitled Goose Game offers the release of being an utter git but does so in a very measured fashion. We are not inflicting physical violence upon in-game NPCs but instead participating in low level mischief, reciprocal to that which life often has in store for us. This tempered, non-violent bad behaviour is extremely relaxing and inherently wholesome, compared to shooting someone in the face in an FPS.
The PC version of Untitled Goose Game appears to be exclusive to the Epic Store. At the price of £11.99 it is an utter bargain. As a game it’s one of those rare examples where the stars aligned and pretty much all elements have fallen into place. Unlike so many contemporary games which are burdened with complexity, decisions and tendency to punish the player if they choose unwisely, Untitled Goose Game simply offers an opportunity to “be”. It sets out its stall and allows the players to immediately come to terms with the task in hand. You’re a Goose. Go make yourself a nuisance. Don’t worry about it. Because you’re a Goose and this is what they do. I’m not sure if it’s some sort of bizarre form of method acting or the video game equivalent of the Rorschach test. But it’s great fun and an absolute hoot. Or should that be a honk?