America - Front
America - Back
By Kevin McDonald 27th Sep 2019 | 1,608 views
To many, gaming is one of the ultimate forms of escapism. Unlike literature, movies or television, video games allow us to adopt a greater degree of control, and at times shape the narrative, rather than just follow it. We can cast aside our inhibitions, assume the form of weird and wonderful characters, and act in a manner that is not befitting of our real life personality. We all have our mischievous side, but social conventions can often dictate how and when we can indulge the devil within. This is why we often seek out a suitable outlet for these impulses and Untitled Goose Game looks to tick all the boxes in this regard.
The tagline succinctly states “it’s a lovely morning in the village, and you are a horrible goose”. There’s no other explanation provided for our vindictive excursion, other than the need of the nameless goose to inflict misery upon the good folk of the local town. And really, the story isn’t important here, as this is an experience that is all about the journey, not the end game. Having personally experienced and admired the sheer obnoxiousness of many a bird during my lifetime, I find the premise to be hilarious and appealing, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. The concept is a promising one - the question is whether developer House House can deliver on it.
After some introductory honking, the nameless goose emerges from a bush into a small training area, where the fundamentals of the game are explained. It’s an entirely optional tutorial section, but even indulging in a practice session will only take a few moments. Whatever your choice, it won’t be long until you’re on your way to begin your day of mischief. It plays out as a stealth puzzle sort of affair, as you slowly and steadily complete a list of missions whilst trying to avoid excess scrutiny that could undo your hard work. The areas you’re navigating and operating in gradually get more complex and difficult as you progress to new parts of the village, so you’ll find yourself having to play with a bit more patience and cunning as you delve deeper into the quaint little town. Tasks usually involve taking items, scaring residents and being a nuisance. Although you’re generally doing the same sort of thing throughout the game, unless you’re not immersed in your quest (and it’s hard not to be utterly engrossed), it shouldn’t prove bothersome.
One of the major positives about Untitled Goose Game is how beautiful the graphics are. The environments and character models may be very basic, but the vivid colour palette and fluid animations make for a pleasant and amusing visual experience. Just witness the way your resident goose waddles around; a striking white shape adorned with soulless black eyes, bounding around on webbed orange feet with reckless abandon. It just looks absolutely perfect, and the juxtaposition of the stylish art direction, high brow cursive text and classy piano jaunts in such a mean spirited game makes it even better. The soundtrack is actually very sparse, and the ivories only get tickled when the goose gets spotted or is in a spot of bother, creating a light hearted tension. The lack of music also allows the pitter-patter of goose feet on rural terrain to take centre stage, leaving us in no doubt as to who the star of the show is. This may seem like a small thing to point out, but it really is the little details that help make the game more rewarding and endear you to your feathery anti-hero.
Whilst seeing your goose in action is a treat, controlling it is less so. It all comes down to the cumbersome movement of your foul fowl, who turns slower than milk when sprinting. Agility improves vastly when travelling at a more leisurely pace, but this leaves you open to being caught by agitated villagers looking to shoo you away or retrieve what you have stolen. It can also be frustrating trying to position the goose properly, particularly when the window of opportunity to complete an objective or snag an item is small, which can set you back in multi part missions. Thankfully, penalties are minimal, and should you get stuck, a reset function allows you to restart the level. Inputs for actions such as honking, ducking and grabbing are more responsive and can be assigned to whichever button you wish. In fact, the entire control scheme is customisable, allowing the player to chop and change for an interface that is comfortable to them - a welcome addition for all I’m sure.
Despite having a few rough edges, Untitled Goose Game is a pretty good title. There are one or two control issues, and it’s something of a one trick pony that can be beaten in a couple of hours, but the sheer absurdity and hilarity of it all makes for a short and sweet affair. Couple that with the wonderful visual and aural presentation, and you’ve got a potential sleeper hit on your hands. It’s not difficult to imagine the possibilities for adding to and expanding upon this game - be it with a sequel or DLC - so don't be surprised if we get to don the guise of the goose again in the future. Honk!