Untitled Goose Game (Switch) Review
Disclaimer: This game was personally purchased for review.
Being a horrible goose is about as fun as you might expect. When Untitled Goose Game was announced two years ago, the trailer went viral with its slapstick, cartoonish gameplay elements really standing out as something to take notice of. It speaks one of our darker desires: to be an absolute dick to everyone.
The premise is simple: give everyone a bad time. Starting out, the goose wanders into a small European-looking village filled with innocent people just going about their day – the groundskeeper doing some gardening; a shopkeeper maintaining her inventory; a man casually sipping his tea while reading the paper. From here on, there’s no room for being a good egg.
As the goose, your job is to cross off a laundry list of hijinks the game gives you, such as having a picnic by stealing the poor groundskeeper’s garden vegetables or chasing a terrified kid into a phone booth while honking like an absolute mad c***. Once your objectives are done, it’s time to move on to a new area in the village until everyone is suitably pissed off and erects a comically large ‘no geese’ sign.
What I found about the way the game connects its areas and has the player completing objectives, is how it incorporates the intertwined pathways of Dark Souls and the stealth elements of a Hitman lite. Rather than relying on being super sneaky, where getting caught will fail the mission, instead you’ll just have to back off and either wait a few moments for the huffy human to return to its routine or find another way to distract them to get what you want.
There are also some objectives that require aggravating two humans, where stealing something from one then means you’ll need to deliver it to another and trigger a consequence. Sometimes these can be simple, but others can take a while to figure out as the instructions can be too vague (example: the “get dressed up in a ribbon” task, which requires ditching a lady’s goose statue and standing in its place so she will place a red ribbon on you instead of the statue). However, most are somewhat straightforward.
A couple of small issues stem from this checklist approach: firstly, you begin to see the limitations in how to complete your tasks; and secondly, the game ends up being quite short (around 2 hours). Whereas something like Hitman also gives the player a sandbox to play with objects and gives variable tasks to complete, it also allows the player to take their own approach to a situation. Untitled Goose Game on the other hand is lighter on this, which is for better or worse depending on what you’re looking to get out of it. The game is clearly geared more towards an accessible, jump-in-and-cackle-at-some-schadenfreude kind of moments.
Visually, the game really pops with its pretty, colourful art style. Even the animations are endearing, particularly in the way the goose waddles, honks and flaps its wings (my favourite thing to do was piss someone off, extend my wings and honk to safety in a way that would make Zoidburg proud). Controls are simple: you can grab, honk, flap and run. Flapping is only relevant to maybe one objective, but others are frequently necessary either to steal or distract. A nice little touch is how the honk sounds different depending on what item you’re holding: a traffic cone will create a conical resonance, or a harmonica will appropriately toot some chords.
What really adds to the comedy of the game is the dynamically reactive soundtrack. Untitled Goose Game features procedurally arranged soundbites of Debussy’s Préludes, creating unique musical cues akin to the capering sounds of an episode of Looney Tunes or Tom & Jerry. Some of the funnier moments come from how well the game accompanies the goose’s antics, like playing menacing, bassy passages when sneaking up on someone, much like the famous semitone motif in Jaws.
Untitled Goose Game is a well-crafted hijinks simulator which captures whimsical misadventures of a bird just being a real prick for no real reason. While the game is short, it fits nicely on the ‘doesn’t overstay its welcome’ shelf, meaning it’s simple to play through in an evening. Mechanics are easy to learn (button inputs can be customised) and the stealth is light on strategy. But what’s ultimately delivered is a neat little package of an open sandbox where you can run amok without consequences to great, maniacal effect.
+ You’re a total douche
+ Art and animation is lovely
+ The soundtrack reacts to your tomfoolery
- Some objectives are a bit vague
- Stealth elements are pretty light