NEED TO KNOW
What is it? A goose simulator, casting you as one of the feathered fiends tearing through a human village.
Expect to pay $20/£16
Developer House House
Reviewed on GeForce GTX 1650, AMD Ryzen 5 3550H, 8 GB RAM
Link Official site
There aren’t nearly enough games that let you play the villain. The beauty here of course is that, as much as it might feel like it on occasion, geese are not evil creatures. They’re just birds adapting to a world that humans have taken over with a cold disregard for nature. I, on the other hand, take immense pleasure in being a horrible git—and therefore, I love this game.
Controls are nice and simple, and never get in the way of your mission to wreak havoc. Hold one button to run rather than waddle, one to lean down, another to flap your wings, another to grab or drop things—and that’s it, really. Objectives are presented via a ‘to do’ list in the pause menu, and almost exclusively involve making the lives of the villagers miserable. Although you’re free to live out your goose-related fantasies however you see fit, these objectives teach you what's possible, and help unlock the entirety of the small but busy map.
The game proper begins just outside a small garden and, once I’m in, I’m giggling with glee within seconds. Now, I’ve already decided I like the game beforehand—the waddling animation is endlessly captivating, and it is literally impossible to dislike a game that opens with “press X to honk”—but my first human encounter really seals the deal.
One of the first objectives I complete is to steal the gardener’s keys, snatching them right off his trousers. I then make a run for the lake, honking triumphantly as he gives chase, dropping them into my watery domain far out of his reach before smugly paddling around without a care in the world. Later, I’ll get the poor sod wet, steal his lunch, make him buy back his own trowel, and more. This, I’ll remind you, is just the first area of the village.
The best way to explain the sheer joy to be had from Untitled Goose Game, I think, is to talk about the boy. Every villager stands up to your ruthless antics—chasing you if they catch you stealing, a few even determinedly shooing you away before you’ve had a chance to do anything—except this boy. The poor lad in question is terrified of you, which shouldn’t be funny at all, but is absolutely hilarious. He runs away when you chase him with menacing honks, which is funny enough (not to mention the fact that you can untie his shoelaces and make him fall over), but he also serves as a demonstration of how this is, at its heart, an action puzzle game.
One objective requires you to trap the kid in a phone box. With this done, he calls the owner of the nearby TV shop, who comes out to help. This allows you to quickly nip in to the shop and complete another objective. Progress, you see, often relies on outsmarting those pesky humans. Better yet, many objectives have multiple solutions. There’s nothing that will have you stumped for hours, but there’s certainly a depth you may not have suspected, and immense satisfaction to be had in working out what to do.
There isn't a story, exactly, but there is an ending. Your first run through will probably only take an hour or two, after which some extra objectives for each area are added to your ‘to do’ list. Clear all those, and things still aren’t quite over yet. You can, of course, waddle around causing random havoc just for the hell of it, and dig out Easter eggs (I take far more pleasure than is perhaps normal in honking through a walkie talkie). If it’s structure you’re after, then it now almost becomes a whole new game.
Once the whole village is open to you, you can take on the optional challenge of completing all its objectives within a tight time limit. This requires forward planning and, sometimes, a change in tactics if the way you usually do things is too time consuming. A game that is usually relaxed and playful suddenly becomes a manic test of speed and improvisation. This isn’t a bad thing by any means; beating a time limit induces fist-pumping (wing-pumping?) joy.
There’s no denying that once you approach the six hour mark, the joke (slowly) begins to wear thin. The game's small village gets repetitive after a while, but that really, really doesn’t matter. This wasn’t designed for GTA levels of playtime, and I can’t remember the last game that made me laugh so loudly and so often while I was playing it. It’s the sort of game that makes your friends, when they see you playing it, say “goose a go, mate”.