It’s a lovely morning in the village, and you are a horrible goose.
That’s the rather apt slogan for the sensation that took the internet by storm last month. You are the eponymous goose, a figure awoken from its slumber that has decided to cause havoc in the nearby village. You have a to-do list, a population of aggressive townsfolk, and a playground of systems to mess around in.
Although largely a sandbox puzzler, the to-do list is a main source of fun. Tasks are presented with an ambiguous description, so you’d be trying many different things and getting varying results. One of the first objectives you need to tick off is to get the groundskeeper wet, and so I stole his vegetables to lure him into the nearby park. It turns out having him step into the lake or turning on the sprinkler while he’s doing a bit of weeding will complete it. The solutions to each task are systemic, as there were times where I’d be saying to myself, ‘this really won’t work,’ only to be surprised that it did.
This is all communicated to you in a clear yet subtle manner. Some of the first few to-do items involve you stealing from the groundskeeper, which teaches you that NPCs will chase after the things you steal. Character animations are exaggerated, cartoonesque displays, helping to emphasise why a certain outcome has occurred and what you must do to change it. There’s also very little onscreen text, with everything besides the controls being taught through visual and audio cues. By experimenting with the various systems, Untitled Goose Game rewards patient players with a sharp eye.
It also helps that there aren’t any true fail states. You will never see a Game Over screen. Anything you affect in the world can reset itself naturally. Human NPCs will collect items that you take from them and returned to their proper place, and everything you break can be fixed. It always feels like you’re making progress, as every mistake can be rectified and retried with minutes. This is the core strength of how well the game regards its casual audience.
I love how quintessentially British the village is. House House may have designed something that appeals to a worldwide audience (geese are arses in every culture, right?), but from the quiet beer gardens to the cramped red phone boxes, it is unequivocally an English game. Therefore, it came as a massive surprise to me to discover the developer wasn’t located in a small Yorkshire tearoom but all the way across the world in Melbourne. I’m not sure what sort of research went into this, but it’s an accurate depiction of my country.
About morality in video games, I often find my position differs depending on what I’m playing. I play a good guy in BioWare RPGs, helping folk out and saving the world, whereas I’m an asshole in GTA, robbing old ladies and crashing my car into buses. There’s no skirting around the issue in Goose Game. It doesn’t shy away from the premise of you being a nuisance goose for the sake of it. It’s fun to run about and freak everyone out as you ruin their day. The wholesome visual flair gives it that extra nuance of moral reprehension.
After it took over memes and social media, everyone now wants a piece of the goose pie. Even celebrities are tweeting about it. It’s a short but special puzzler that rewards patience and perception, while also acting as a sandbox for casual players that would prefer to ignore the objectives. The perfect Sunday afternoon time filler.
Tested on PC
Also available on Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Developer House House
Disclosure a copy of Untitled Goose Game was supplied by Panic