Available On: PC (Epic Games Store), Switch
Over the years and decades playing games I’ve embodied super-soldiers, dragons, cars, knights, aliens, and all kinds of fantastical beasts. In Untitled Goose Game, I’m a goose.
A normal-size, power-less goose sounds like a bit of a downgrade. Yet as I’ve come to learn geese are clever, resourceful, and hilariously aggravating, creating a uniquely light-hearted, memorable experience.
Untitled Goose Game tries to defy genre conventions, but it’s essentially a puzzle game with some light stealth elements. My abilities as a goose are limited to running, honking, leaning down, and unfurling my wings. My most important tool is picking up and interacting with various objects around a quaint village, and there are plenty of hilarious challenges to overcome.
From the beginning I’m given a To-Do list, making Untitled Goose Game more objective-based (complete with separate levels) rather than a free-roaming goose simulator.
The first “level” involves harassing a gardener and stealing objects to make my own picnic. The humans in this village don’t bother me unless I get too close to them, or they see me stealing something of their’s, like socks off a clothesline or a man’s pipe while he reads the paper. Distraction and stealth are important, and thankfully the camera allows me to easily zoom out to avoid unwanted detection.
Once I complete most of the objectives on my To-Do list, the next area of the village opens up, along with a new list of objectives. At a street corner I need to harass a kid, including tripping him and stealing his glasses, and even stealing his toy plane to take to the nearby shop stall and sneakily put it on the shelf, forcing him to buy it back.
It’s a bit mean-spirited but also feels very goose-like. Becoming a horrible jerk of a goose (in other words, a goose) is humorous and enjoyable thanks to the simple but colorful art style. The people look more like animated wooden figures than real people, thanks to their lack of eyes and knob-like hands.
I was particularly impressed with the all-piano musical score. Whenever I’m spotted and chased the piano amps up into an exciting crescendo, mimicking the effectiveness and importance of music during the Silent Film era, without being distractingly bombastic.
Untitled Goose Game is rated E for Everyone. There’s no violence or animal cruelty (except for an animal being rather cruel); if caught by someone you’ll be chased, and if they catch up they’ll take the object and return it. Controls are easy to grasp, and it’s simple to identify which objects can be interacted with. Stealth can be a tricky and even stressful gameplay element for younger children, however.
The fun goose-shenanigans come to an initial end after four levels and a climactic stealthy race back, but the action continues with more difficult and even timed To-Do lists, reminding me of the back-of-the-book challenges from the Where’s Waldo book series. I wish there were more areas of the town to explore, but the intuitive puzzle designs, hilarious reactions, and fun music and art help make Untitled Goose Game one of the most satisfying indie games of the year.