Imagine Hitman but where you’re a goose and instead of killing people you just annoy them… that’s Untitled Goose Game.
‘It’s a lovely morning in the village… and you are a horrible goose’ may be the greatest phrase in video game marketing history. It certainly sold us on the concept, before the first teaser trailer had even really begun, and we’re delighted to report that playing the role of an evil goose, whose only goals in life are to irritate and confound hapless humans, is just as much fun as we hoped. It turns out that being horrible can be a lot of fun, as long as you blame it on being ‘only’ a goose.
We usually start a review by trying to explain roughly what kind of game we’re dealing with and making any obvious comparisons to other titles, to help everyone get a general idea of what it’s all about. But despite that seeming to be impossible, since this is the first and only goose simulator, it does belong to another more common genre: the stealth game. Try to imagine Solid Snake, except he’s not saving the world but is instead trying to steal people’s sandwiches.
Set in an idyllic-looking English village (despite developer House House being Australian) there is no back story for the avian malcontent. As you start the game, and observe a gardener pottering happily in his allotment, you work out how to turn on a hose and soak him with water. This reveals a checklist of other goals – such as stealing his keys and creating your own goose-friendly picnic – and thus begins your reign of terror.
Rather than Metal Gear, a better comparison for Untitled Goose Game would be the Hitman series, given the significant amount of forward-planning and puzzle-like nature of your various goals. There’s also the fact that the different parts of the village are basically sandbox levels where almost everything can be interacted with (we’re not sure geese are that good at picking things up with their beaks but you roll with it) and responds to a simple physics engine.
The people also act surprisingly realistically, once they get over their initial surprise of being honked at by a kleptomaniac goose. They’ll give chase and shoo you away, but you often have the upper hand in that they’re not expecting you to come back or be quite so adept at hiding.
A lot of your goals involve simple thievery, which can often be completed merely by learning a character’s routine and laying in wait or following behind at a suitable distance. Stealing a set of keys is fairly straightforward but tricking someone into wearing a hat or dropping a bucket on their head involves additional steps and some lateral thinking.
Despite being a perfectly modern game, with some seamless interactive music and very nice flat-shaded graphics (the simulation of the goose is excellent, with a swaggering waddle that is both realistic and full of character), the heart of Untitled Goose Game is surprisingly old-fashioned. Not just in the sense that it seems to be literally set in the ‘80s but that the open-ended puzzle-solving is reminiscent of LucasArts titles and other games from before the era of the objective marker.
Things never get too complex or abstruse but having to work out how to steal a boy’s glasses or smuggling yourself into a pub garden requires some clever use of the environment and all your various goose abilities. The harder puzzles have little clues in the form of thought bubbles above people’s heads but there’s no hand-holding or other attempts to spoil the puzzles, which is a welcome relief.
Untitled Goose Game isn’t particularly long and in truth it does start to run out of steam before the end, with some increasingly samey objectives, but while it lasts the whole experience is an absolute hoot. We’re sure it’s going to go down very well with streamers and YouTubers as simply watching it is a joy, as you mess around seeing how you can upset people in different ways or discover secret hidden objectives.
The game’s whimsical sense of humour, where someone falling on their bum is as violent as any of the pratfalls gets, is a blessed relief from the video-gaming norm and easily papers over any problems with repetition and the occasional bug (the reset button is not only for when objects get scattered too far across the level but when you get irrevocably stuck behind a bit of scenery).
These few faults don’t even come close to spoiling the fun though and we can honestly say that this is everything we ever wanted from a (horrible) goose simulator. Untitled Goose Game is funny, clever, and so charming it almost makes you like geese. And that’s not an achievement that should be taken lightly.
Untitled Goose Game
Untitled Goose Game review
In Short: Completely charming and wonderfully presented stealth puzzle game, that turns a horrible goose into one of the year’s most endearing video game stars.
Pros: Instantly appealing concept that transforms into a surprising involved puzzle game, requiring stealth, lateral thinking, and the intense desire to irritate and annoy. Great graphics and music.
Cons: The game does seem to run out of ideas before the end, with some very similar objectives. A bit glitchy, but the reset button always helps.
Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed) and PC
Developer: House House
Release Date: 20th September 2019
Age Rating: 3
*£13.49 until 4 October
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