As one of Yorkshire’s foremost amateur geese enthusiasts, when I was offered the chance to review Untitled Goose Game, I considered it an excellent opportunity to educate bird-brained Thumb Culture readers about the majestic beauty of the family Anserinae.
Upon accepting the honour, however, I was somewhat chagrined to discover that I had not been chosen to review the game due to my expert knowledge of geese, but rather because the particular goose-protagonist in question had a vindictive and irritating nature, and it was suggested that I had an unparalleled grasp of such personality traits.
Whilst deeply upset at what I considered a somewhat spurious claim, in the end, I agreed to evaluate the game, all the same, so long as I could litter the review with atrocious puns [I don’t remember agreeing to this – Ed.]. So, let’s take a gander at Untitled Goose Game.
The name Untitled Goose Game doesn’t exactly give an uninitiated gamer much to go off prior to purchase, however, one thing it probably does tell you is that the developer, House House, clearly has a sense of humour. At its heart, Untitled Goose Game is an utterly charming isometric puzzler that has clearly been made to an artistic vision and with considerable care and attention to detail.
The concept of the game is relatively simple; you the player take on the role of an ordinary white goose that makes its home near what can reasonably be described as a well-to-do English village (think country gardens, cricket, and one of those gastropubs that have tons of outdoor seating and charges £5 a pint).
Your job is to enter that village and, to put it bluntly, ruin everybody’s day. To that end, you are given a ‘to do’ list which, amongst its entries, includes such japes as trapping a child inside a phone booth, getting someone to accidentally destroy their neighbour’s expensive vase, and soaking an unfortunate groundskeeper. Now that’s what I call fowl play.
One of the best aspects of the game is that these ‘quests’ can often be completed using different approaches, so the player is offered some significant creative freedom in terms of how they choose to tackle a particular scenario. In a world where so many games follow a linear format to puzzle-solving, this is quite refreshing.
The enjoyment of the game is also helped by the simple nature of its controls which are limited to waddling, running (well, fast waddling…!), ducking, picking up objects, honking, and flapping your wings. That’s it. But that’s honestly all you need. What’s even better is that these controls are learned through a tutorial so intuitive that you don’t even consciously feel like you’re being taught them. If only that were true of every game!
Whilst the game is effectively divided into levels, with different parts of the village becoming available to explore as you complete the tasks set, the world is a continuous one, and items dragged from one area to another will stay there for the whole game (and, indeed, some of the later puzzles do require items to be brought across the different areas).
To prevent players from losing items within the game world, the developers have thoughtfully put a ‘reset’ button on the options page which will revert the village to its default state, whilst maintaining your current progress.
It’s also worth noting that this screen has been wonderfully designed, with each selectable option being done in the style of a different British road sign. That’s the sort of creative attention to detail that you can’t find in many mainstream offerings. It’s also somewhat unexpected given that House are actually based in Melbourne!
You might think that, for a game made by a small development team, Untitled Goose Game would probably not feature spectacular graphics and, whilst you’d be partially right in the sense that the goose represented is not photoed realistic, the game’s graphics are, in my opinion, excellent.
Everything rendered on screen is done so in a clean and colourful fashion using flat-shading. This is a welcome choice for two reasons. The first of these is wholly practical – in a game that involves picking up and moving numerous objects, it would quickly become frustrating if these did not stand out due to a lack of contrast.
Secondly, but of equal importance, however, the graphics complement the vision of the developers superbly – they are bright and fun, and help to bring the slumbering village you’re about to wreak havoc on to life.
Untitled Goose Game is set in the peaceful English countryside, and the audio in the game, much like the graphics, has been designed to directly complement this aesthetic. The music, which is adapted from classical piano pieces by Debussy is only used sparingly and directly corresponds to the actions of you as the goose.
For example, if you’ve stolen a trowel and are being chased by an outraged shopkeeper, the music will pick up the pace to follow this. If you are swimmingly calmly along the river, however, you’ll simply enjoy the ambience of the locale in peace.
The sound effects, meanwhile, include everything a mischievous avian would expect, from loud crashes caused by you turning someone’s home upside down to the startling yelps of the anatidaephobic townspeople (that means fear of waterfowl, you pleb!). And of course…Honk! Honk! Honk! Is this the best goose honk recorded in computer game history? It’s certainly up there.
N.B. Whoever had the idea of you being able to steal an old man’s harmonica and honk through that deserves a lifetime achievement award. Wonderful.
If there’s one thing that did have me spitting feathers somewhat, it’s that Untitled Goose Game is a little on the short side. At a full retail price of £17.99, you don’t get a considerable amount of playtime. The puzzles featured, whilst fun and being on the right side of challenging, would probably be completed by an experienced gamer within 8 hours.
That being said, what you’re being offered is a quality product, and I personally prefer to spend the few free hours I have engaging in a well-constructed experience, rather than playing a game that simply extends its length by requiring the player to do the same repetitive tasks over and over again (I’m still having flashbacks about Fallout 4 today).
Sometimes it pays not to over-egg a pudding. Perhaps additional levels could be provided through downloadable content, however. We can always hope.
Untitled Goose Game achieves, to my mind, what every good computer game should. It has been made with love and care, and it is witty, whimsical, and most importantly…fun.
It’s the sort of game that is bound to bring a smile to your face, whether you’re a kid who is playing his first goose-related game or a handsome 32-year-old would-be ornithologist. You can keep your AAA game industry – I’m all about the GGG game industry now and, even if you think this review is just quackery [that’s not even a goose pun – Ed.], I urge you to try out Untitled Goose Game all the same.
I’ve ended up in quite a flap about it. I mean, I get goose pimples just talking about it – it’s time to honk if you’re… [you’re fired – Ed.]. I award Untitled Goose Game a Thumb Culture Gold Award!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.
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