Release Date: Sept. 20, 2019
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC
Developer: House House
Publisher: Panic Inc.
There are some games that capture the adoration of the public long before they launch, and Untitled Goose Game was very much one of these. There was always a queue for the game when it demoed at EGX Rezzed earlier in the year, for example, and gaming Twitter has been awash with anticipation for months. And now that the game has officially been released, we’re pleased to report that it doesn’t disappoint.
If you’ve missed the hype, allow us to fill you in: this long-anticipated title from the Australian developers at House House puts players in the role of a mischevious goose who has a series of stealthy puzzles to solve in order to wreak havoc throughout an otherwise sleepy neighborhood. This corker of a concept is what put the game on the map, and the cutesy art style didn’t hurt either.
Picking it up and actually playing it feels a bit surreal after all this time, but Untitled Goose Game is very easy to get to grips with. We played the Nintendo Switch version, which uses a mixture of shoulder buttons, regular buttons, and the analog stick to give your goose a wide array of moves: as well as walking around, honking, and picking things up with your beak, you can also flap your wings and bend your neck (which comes in handy for ducking under barriers and picking things up off the floor). It’s a nice and simple control scheme, which allows you to immerse yourself quickly in this lovable little world.
The game kicks off in a garden next to a lake, which is manned by a mild-mannered groundskeeper whose day you’re about to ruin. Pressing the minus button on the Switch brings up your list of objectives, which include things like “Rake in the Lake” and “Get The Groundskeeper Wet.” Each area in the game also has one list-based task, which instructs you to nab a variety of items and dump them in one place (e.g. steal various foodstuffs and bring them to a nearby picnic blanket). The game is refreshingly low in its stakes: the worse thing that can happen at any given point is that you get caught in the act and ushered out of the area by a perturbed human.
You’ll have to think tactically to work your way through this first area. Although the game is cute, it isn’t just fluff – you will need to engage your brain to find all the solutions that you need. You’ll need to deploy distractions, stealth, and speedy movement to strike certain tasks off your to-do list. You can always reset an area, though, so you don’t need to worry about messing things up. It’s an altogether low-stress experience.
It’s worth noting that there a few minor wrinkles from a technical standpoint. You might find your goose glitching out ever so slightly on rare occasions, as you try to make a move that the game can’t quite compute – but wiggling the control stick a bit will generally sort you out. There are also moments when getting through the necessary space (like a tiny gap in a hedge) or moving the required item (a cumbersome cabbage, for example) feels a bit too fiddly to be fun. These are rare instances, though.
Untitled Goose Game‘s main flaw, if you could even call it that, is that there simply isn’t enough of it. There are four main areas to explore in the village, each of which has a handful of objectives and tricky moments. Then there is a little finale, which we won’t spoil, and then the credits roll (complete with some surprisingly emotional music). After that, a few extra objectives are added to the areas you’ve already explored. It’s worth noting that this isn’t a fully-priced game (it’ll set you back less than $15 in the Nintendo eShop at the moment), so perhaps we shouldn’t have expected much more than this.
Still, after waiting for the game for months, there’s a feeling that the village could’ve been bigger and the overall experience could’ve lasted longer. But when a game leaves you wanting more, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Overall, Untitled Goose Game is a joyous way to spend a couple of hours. The game is pleasing on the eye, with its visual style offering just the right amount of detail to make objects recognizable without distracting from the bright and light cartoonish vibe. And the game is also just the right amount of challenging, with one area that involves sneaking back and forth between two neighboring gardens throwing up some proper chin-scratching situations. When you have to work for it, ticking something off the list feels even more satisfying than usual.
The game also includes heaps of humor, from the simple charms of pinching veggies and watching people get in a flap, to more darkly comic things like locking a shopkeeper in their garage or stealing a kid’s glasses. This is a game that lets you delve deep into the dark side of the waterfowl psyche, revelling in the low-key chaos you’re inflicting around the village. It’s a honking good time, basically, and we’d definitely sign up for a sequel.