Should Untitled Goose Game?

22 September 2019

Untitled Goose Game is a new release from developer House House and publisher Panic with a delightfully simple premise: you are a goose, and your goal is to create mayhem. You are guided by a twee notepad written in cursive with directions such as “make the groundskeeper wear his sun hat”, leaving you in a series of miniature sandboxes full of characters and interactive items to accomplish these tasks.

Rare, especially for a single-player game, is that Untitled Goose Game often had me actually laughing aloud, even playing alone. The charming color palette and cartoonish slapstick is a pure delight to behold, and there’s an unfettered joy in playing an animal who can be considered truly amoral, rather than immoral: “I’m a goose,” your goose’s sassy neck-waggle suggests as he struts around town, “what are you gonna do about it?”

The answer to that, beyond getting shoo’d out of certain areas, is “not much”. For an ostensibly-stealth game, there is very little consequence to being caught. If you are caught stealing an item, it is easy enough to just snatch it back from the character’s hands and sprint away again, rather than waiting for them to forget your presence. Most characters will simply continue their routine until you actively provoke them, and the missions I found most rewarding were ones that required some amount of envionmental manipulation, where the NPCs’ drive to constantly reset the level fights against your goal: for example, waiting for a sink to fill with water to retrive a boat, while the waitress will shut the water off if she gets close.

It must be acknowledged too: the game is short. I completed the first-stage missions in under two hours, which then unlocks a series of additional to-dos, including some time trials. At the time of writing, I’ve played about six hours, and have completed all of these except the timed missions. There’s something admirable about a concept not overstaying its welcome; I simply don’t have the free time any more to complete epic games requiring tens or hundreds of hours. Additionally, I delight in toy-games, games which are constructed around one core interaction and progressively iterate on that interaction to build up new and clever puzzles.

In this regard, I feel like Untitled Goose Game does not go far enough. I would happily keep playing in this space, and experimenting with ever-more-complex ideas, but beyond crossing off the last to-do, there is no incentive to do so. Most of the puzzles in the game, even the bonus puzzles, only require thinking one or two steps ahead to the solution. I would love to see more complex interactions in the world, in which the goose could construct some elaborate Rube Goldberg scenarios to lure a character across the village to the right place at the right time.

Items littered about the village suggest this promise too: there are plenty of things that play no role in the current set of missions, such as a letter stuck in the mail slot of a house, that beg to be incorporated into additional mischief. I can only hope that House House has plans for additional DLC, because even without adding on more playgrounds, the edges of the game hum with this untapped potential.

Should I play Untitled Goose Game: YES

Untitled Goose Game will have you smiling and laughing every moment you spend playing it. It’s a short romp but captures the mischevious amorality of the goose with a remarkable amount of heart. But the game also promises that it could go so much further than what is delivered here. Its toolset spurs the imagination and makes me wish for more of a reason to keep playing beyond 100% completion.

Should I… is a segment where I will briefly review media I consume to answer the question of whether or not it is worth your time or energy. Note that this is distinct from something being good. Rather, the question at hand is whether it tries something innovative, presents ideas in a new way, or otherwise offers something educational to an aficionado of the medium.