Even if you don’t play video games, you no doubt have seen a fair bit of Untitled Goose Game recently. It has taken the Internet by storm in the form of memes, with the aforementioned goose inserted into many different situations, different games, historical events, or just repurposed screenshots from the original game with macro text added. I expect 80% of people aren’t even aware there’s a game behind the goose. Truly, Untitled Goose Game seems to hold a singular appeal for memeification. In terms of actual gameplay, Untitled Goose Game is fairly straightforward, but its lasting appeal comes from its superb sense of humour. Untitled Goose Game is hilarious, and it is difficult to play it without finding yourself infectiously grinning at the sheer ludicrousness of it.
As the memes make clear, the objective of Untitled Goose Game is that you are a horrible goose. You are let loose on a small English town to basically wreak havoc, stealing keys, throwing things into lakes, breaking vases, making children cry, locking villagers in their garages, and much else besides. You control the goose by clicking to a location to move, or double-clicking to run in an always adorable waddling sprint. You can pick up objects in the environment with your beak, and deposit them elsewhere. You can also spread your wings for the benefit of looking suitably threatening/regal, and of course, there is a dedicated button to honk. Honk at the frightened child. Honk at the TV store owner. Honk at the man drinking his tea. You get the idea.
The small but well-designed environment is broken into little zones, each of which have a To-Do list of objectives. For example, in the first zone which comprises the park and a neighbouring allotment garden, you can achieve such delights as making the groundskeeper soaking wet, throwing his rake into the lake, and steal his keys. Basically, make this poor groundskeeper’s life hell. After achieving a number of objectives, the next zone of the town will open up and you can move on to making a new villager’s life a misery. The vast majority of the objectives are funny, silly and ridiculous situations which invoke a kind of Harold Lloyd or Charlie Chaplin style of slapstick humour, and I routinely found myself descending into villainous laughter as I trapped a child in a phone box or managed to steal BOTH of a villager’s slippers. There are some other objectives that are more checklist-based (i.e. bring certain objects to X location) and these unfortunately aren’t as interesting.
Graphically the game is fairly plain, but what makes it work is the excellent animation on both the villagers and the goose itself. The goose waddle is perfect, as is the overall weight of the movement which somehow manages to give the goose a lot of personality. The villagers all stomp around stoically trying to deal with the troublesome goose as best they can, and will chase you in a Keystone Kapers manner when they spot you stealing something you shouldn’t. The environments are very typical for a classic English village; the era non-specific but general 20th Century. You won’t find the ultra-realism of something like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, but it does feel true enough to life.
Finally worthy of mention is the music. The procedurally generated, piano Jazz themed soundtrack uses your movements and actions while playing as the goose to influence the sound. Almost in a reimagining of the original iMUSE system from the Monkey Island games, the soundtrack will react to when you steal an object, when you’re spotted by villagers, or when you’re shooed away by a shopkeeper or pub landlord. It works superbly, and makes each ridiculous situation you manage to create as the goose feel that much funnier. It’s not a soundtrack that you’d want to listen to outside of the game, but one that is ideally suited as an accompaniment to the gameplay.
Untitled Goose Game is not complicated. Games like it have certainly been around before. In a way, something like Goat Simulator probably shares the most similarities. But unlike Goat Simulator, Untitled Goose Game never overtly lets you know it’s in on the joke. The goose is funny because of the stupid things you can make it do, but also because of the resigned, irritated way the villagers react to it. Their Sisyphean acceptance of the goose as almost a force of nature like the weather, to which they can only shrug their shoulders and get on with their day, really elevates Untitled Goose Game to new hilarious heights. An excellent palate-cleanser of a game, which brings some much needed levity into dark times.