In a time of massive AAA blockbusters, endless battle royales and pixelated rouge-likes, it’s refreshing that developers like House House are still out there to create something so uniquely charming as Untitled Goose Game, a recent addition to the Nintendo Switch’s ever-expanding selection of indie games.
Here you’ll control a mischievous goose, adept at all manner of, ahem, “fowl” behaviour. Moving it around is fun, and we couldn’t resist honking at everything and everyone, but picking up objects can be a tad finicky when they’re packed closely together. Punishment for failure means little, though, with an NPC typically replacing the item, allowing you to try again. It’s never enough to cause tangible frustration.
Goose Game‘s presentation is a delight. The simplistic, low-polygon graphics make the characters and objects pop against minimalist backgrounds as you make your way through a small town. The goose couldn’t be much cuter, either, as it waddles and honks, running away from frustrated humans with some plunder in its beak.
A very subtle, piano-based soundtrack accompanies you on your journey, disappearing for long stretches and only piping in when needed to add a little more humour to the proceedings. It’s excellent.
There’s no plot here: you’re a goose, and you like to wreck shit (and also bells). That’s pretty much the size of it. Each time you enter an area a list of goals will appear for you to accomplish. As you check them off you’ll eventually trigger an extra event, and completing that allows you to proceed. Then you’ll waddle through the town until you reach your next sandbox. Rinse and repeat.
At its heart, Goose Game is a stealth puzzler — although the tone is completely different, the series it reminded us of was Hitman, where you’re given a checklist of objectives and then are pretty much free to accomplish them however you see fit. There’s a pretty decent variety within them as well with some being very straight forward and others more exotic and involved.
One early example tasks your goose will getting on TV. You can see the electronics store right away, but how to get in there…? Eventually we were able to chase a child into a phone booth, he then calls the owner, who comes out to check on him, leaving the door open. In we went, flipped a switch and we were on every TV in the place. It’s hard to explain why that whole process was so enjoyable, but everything about it just clicks.
It’s unfortunate then that the experience is over so quickly. Even accounting for getting stumped and failed efforts to do things like getting the gardener to change his hat or setting the table outside of the pub, Goose Game took less than two hours to complete. Maybe the additional “to-do as well” tasks that open up after you finish the main goal could push it past two hours, depending on how much you struggle, but no matter how you slice it there isn’t a ton of content here.
Despite its brevity, Untitled Goose Game is oozing charm and whimsy out of every pore, making it worthy of your time and money. Here’s hoping we get some DLC or an expanded edition whenever it inevitably makes its way to Sony and Microsoft.