Honk If You’re Misanthropic
HIGH A dedicated honk button.
LOW An occasionally-nauseating camera.
WTF The logic behind the trick for getting into the pub.
No one in Untitled Goose Game has any dialogue, including the goose. It expresses no human emotion, has no backstory, and possesses no extraordinary capabilities. There is nothing to differentiate this goose from any other, and therefore it has no discernable reason to engage in a targeted campaign of vandalism, pranks, and general hooliganism. So when it does – aggressively and without bias – it’s hilarious.
The project was willed into existence when one of the developers presented his colleagues with a picture of a goose and said, “Let’s make a game about this.” The resulting product is predicated on the idea that geese are inherently funny – the beady eyes, the wiggly neck, the obnoxious honk, and the fact that (as one dev noted) “the whole animal is just two colours, it’s crazy.” Everything that the lead character does is funnier because it’s a goose. If Untitled Goose Game had been exactly the same but with, say, a fox or a badger as the protagonist, it’d be nowhere near as good.
In each of Untitled Goose Game‘s micro-levels we’re given a checklist of tasks, and most of them involve casually annoying the inhabitants. Throw the gardener’s belongings in the water. Trap the shopkeeper in the garage. Make the neighbor spit out his tea. Is there a point? Well, our actions set off a Rube Goldberg-esque chain of events to open new areas and eventually bring us to our end goal, but anyone holding out for the goose to display more nuance than simply being a spiteful dick is not on the same wavelength as developer House House.
Even though Untitled Goose Game seemingly started out as a joke, credit goes to House House for actually wringing a damn solid stealth romp out of the premise. The goose is defenseless against any human who so much as shoos it away, so we achieve our goals by taking on the role of a calculating manipulator.
(Again, the idea of a goose being a “calculating manipulator” is just extremely funny.)
Each level is a sort of mini-sandbox weirdly reminiscent of Hitman. We study our human targets as they go about their daily routines, looking for openings in which to cause mayhem. Often it’s just a simple matter of outmaneuvering patrol routes and stealing items, either to destroy them, repurpose them, or to assemble arbitrary collections (because seeing a goose set a table is just funny). In other cases, it’s a matter of startling NPCs at the right moments, such as when we make the groundskeeper hammer his thumb by honking while he’s planting a sign.
Untitled Goose Game is at its best, however, when solutions are intuited through experimentation. In one level, we’re instructed to “make someone break the fancy vase.” While there’s no apparent way of doing that, a bit of toying around reveals that whenever a certain resident finds one of his neighbor’s belongings in his own yard, he carelessly throws it back over the fence. Hmm.
Spanning no more than two hours – but with plenty of postgame objectives – Untitled Goose Game gets in and out before its joke stops being funny. The controls are simple, the story is essentially nonexistent, and it’s one of the most readable 3D games in some time thanks to simple colors and untextured models, though the automatic camera goes on the occasional swerving frenzy. It’s so easy to play that it’s no wonder the game has emerged as a universal favorite in such a stacked release season.
Given its unintimidating nature, the only question that should hang over any prospective buyer’s head is whether the idea of watching a sneaky goose make everyone’s day worse is amusing. If the answer is yes – and it damn well ought to be – Untitled Goose Game stands as evidence that even the silliest idea can birth a surprise hit when applied with conviction. I doubt anyone will make a better misanthropic goose game anytime soon.
Disclosures: This game is developed by House House and published by Panic. It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately two hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Everyone and has no descriptors. It’s full of what the ESRB used to call “comic mischief,” but it’s an extremely lighthearted affair with no actual violence or anything inappropriate.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There’s no dialogue, and audio cues played no important role in the game from what I could tell. It’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.
He was born and raised in Amish country and has yet to escape, despite a brief stint in Philadelphia, where he attended Temple University. He took a one-credit course there called "Career Opportunities for English Majors," which painted a bleak picture for prospective writers. Mike remains steadfast in his ongoing role as a video game critic, however, and has recently written for GamesRadar. Most of his work can be found on HonestGamers, where he has contributed over 200 reviews to date.
When not playing games or writing about them, Mike is a rabid indie music fan and ardent concertgoer. He doesn't read as much as he probably should, but his current favorite author is Alastair Reynolds.