Untitled Goose Game Review: A Minimalist Masterpiece (Switch)

The ubiquitous game of 2019 is back with a co-op mode and is still as much of a joy as it was before. Why bother with 2020 when we can just be a silly goose terrorising timid British prudes? Whether it's cricketers or old people, no one is safe when the untitled goose is loose.

Untitled Goose Game Review: Minimalist Masterpiece (Switch)

Untitled Goose Game, the over-memed game that took the world by storm in 2019, is a truly wonderful experience from start to finish. All this game asks you to do is be a nasty little goose and swim and flap through this quaint English town, terrorising the residents and having a grand old time. But it’s the way in which it does it that helps it rise above its simple concept.

Whether you’ve played it or not, you almost definitely know about it. Now out with a new co-op mode, Untitled Goose Game is fresh again. And even though I’ve seen people play this game so many times, only now, having played it myself, do I understand all the delights it holds. It is just so much fun.

Untitled Goose Game - Launch Trailer - Nintendo Switch

Untitled Goose Game is out now on PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One for $19.99.

Story & Gameplay

In this game the story involves you being a mean goose. That’s it. How much of a mean goose? A very mean goose. It is difficult to know why you are tasked with being so nasty. It can’t just be because it’s fun, right? The residents of this sleepy town must have wronged you in some way.

Maybe they’ve started over-fishing in your rivers, or dumping toxic waste, or not feeding you as much bread. Either way, justified or not, you’re going to set out and sort them out. Whether it’s untying their shoelaces or stealing their things, you’re going to absolutely ruin their day.

I do think, story-wise, this game is weirdly perfect. While, of course, there isn’t a proper story, the world is so vibrantly silly that it is very easy to paint your own picture. The first antagonist, Mr. Gardner, is clearly anti-goose. He has a big sign with a goose on it in the middle of a circle and a line struck through it. I don’t know about geese, but to us humans that means that man is not into geese.

The goose is loose and ready to be obtruse.

The goose is loose and ready to be obtruse.

As you move through, you see clearly how humans are either terrified of you or just hate you. It is easy to allow yourself to revel in their pain because of how dismissive they are of you. Other than the young boy with the toy plane — who clearly just wants to be left alone — everyone else feels like they need a good goose-prank. Which is lovely.

But that is all by the by, because the key aspect of this game is the gameplay, which involves you being a mean goose. Oh wait, that’s the same as the story. . . oops. Well yes, story and gameplay are one and the same, basically. What you do is the story. Which is perfect. I mean, imagine if this game had cutscenes. . ?

You have a handful of actions: interact (grab or peck) with ‘A’, run with ‘B’, bend down with ‘ZL’, flap your wings with ‘ZR’, and, most importantly, honk with ‘Y’. You can also zoom in with ‘L’ and out with ‘R’. Pressing ‘minus’ will give you a list of things to do and a reminder of the controls, while ‘plus’ will give you a nifty menu made out of British road signs. It is wonderfully simple.

The goose is mean to all, no matter their age.

The goose is mean to all, no matter their age.

So, the fact that actions can be summed up in a paragraph should show you how easy this game is to pick up. From there, the gameplay shines so brightly because of the joyfully designed puzzle-box levels, separated and interconnected by alleyways or streams. Each one brings with it different people with different personalities, making each one unique and memorable.

Now, sure, everyone has said this game is like Hitman. But I kind of don’t think it is. Or at least while it may have some things reminiscent of Hitman, I’m pretty sure it has more in common with The Sims. Not only does it tell you what people are up to with little thought bubbles full of pictures, but you are basically set to ruining people’s days. This game is The Sims for people who only want to remove pool ladders and leave stoves on.

And that is an important aspect of this game. Zooming the camera out and just observing our enemies’ disgruntlement at whatever predicament we have put them in is wonderful. You watch, wait, see their displeasure, and work out your next move. Yes, it is like Hitman, but our antagonists have so much more humanness, so watching them exist becomes a large chunk of lovely fun.

Graphics & Audio

There is beauty in the little nods to British nonsense.

There is beauty in the little nods to British nonsense.

Another two categories we could separate this game into is the way it looks and the way it sounds, but I group them together because the special thing about this game overall is the way it feels. The way it looks and the way it sounds work together with the gameplay and each other so well that the whole game just exudes polish. It is just so damn charming from beak to tail.

Starting with the music, the soundtrack consists of this mischievous little staccato piano and startled runs of keys which react to different actions in the game. You get caught trying to steal something and a handful of notes crash alarmingly, but softly. You find a new gate and unlock it and some jumpy chords skip up and down for a few seconds. The piano just dots the action.

Visually the game is cute, with block colours meshing well together to create a believable little English town. As someone who lives in a genuinely tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere in England, I can definitely say this place probably exists. Whether it’s a cricket bat or a postbox, it all feels like home.

The goose calls to its many victims.

The goose calls to its many victims.

The foliage, silly objects, and overall minimalism of the sound and the music just give this whole game a perfect cohesiveness. Everything works together very nicely. The music expands to sound like the end to a grand sonata, or retracts to twinkle away over our casual honks, the gardens bloom and expand along river banks, and you just run around as a goose trying to ruin some people’s days. Lovely.

And I think that is one of the key things with this game. It is a perfect little package. It is three hours of wonderful nasty goose fun. And I like that a lot. Just like Sayonara Wild Hearts, it is another tight, short indie game so packed full of ideas and charm and artistic imagination that it is difficult to not completely fall head over heels for it.

Untitled Goose Game was reviewed for Nintendo Switch and a code was provided by HYPE.

Summary
The elements of this game all work together wonderfully to charm and amuse you through its 3-or-so hours. From the vibrant art design to the charming characterisation, this British town is ready to hate this goose with a passion. This game just holds so much in every inch of its world and the way it comes together makes it so hard to not completely fall in love.
Good
  • Engagingly ridiculous gameplay
  • Buoyant and reactive soundtrack
  • Cohesive and holistic charm
Bad
  • Just give me more of the goose, ASAP
9
Amazing
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