Untitled Goose Game review: HONNNNNNK

Untitled Goose Game screenshot
Enlarge / *record scratch* *freeze frame* Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation… of being a cantankerous, honking goose.

Ack! The tall human grabbed a broom! HONK!

No, no, no, no, no, run away, run away! I’m gonna lift my worthless wings (curse these loosey-goosey things) and trot away, trot trot trot. Don’t sweep me, ma’am…

OK. Whew. Gosh, in the madness of running away, I forgot that I have her carrot. It’s in my beak.

Why do I have her carrot? I just saw it and grabbed it. That was easy. That was fun.

Hi, I’m a goose, and this is my story

Maybe I should rewind a bit. I have the brain of a goose, after all. How big are geese brains? I don’t know.

I woke up in a quiet little field a little while ago. Green grass, some boulders, some trees. I shook my head from my nap, peeked out from a shrub, and began exploring. That immediately felt fun. (And it looked lovely, too. I took some photos. Don’t ask me how.) I saw a log, and I heard a voice tell me how to lower my neck to go under it. That was easy. Then I saw a tin can, and I got this sneaking sensation that I should bend down again and pick it up with my beak, which was also fun.

Then I saw a gate, but it was bolted shut. Hmm. I could tell I needed to duck my head to pull one post in the grass, then raise my head to yank another post. Clink, clank. Open!

… ha. I said “duck.” That’s a bird joke.

After waddling through the open gate, I heard a rustle of notebook paper, and I realized I had a list. Maybe it was under one of these worthless wings the whole time. Someone wrote on it in nice, cursive handwriting. Was it another goose?

I don’t really have a sense of time, “health,” or limits here. Those giant people who sweep at me with their hands or (ugh, the horror) a broom? They push me away, but I can always waddle back.

Also, I can take my sweet time and ignore the list, but it’s a comforting thing to refer to. It gives me purpose. Sometimes, it’ll tell me to do something simple: pick something up, then drag it somewhere else. These little things always seem to annoy people. Why do I have to be annoying? I don’t know why my list asks me to annoy everyone. My first list suggested that I drag a farmer’s rake into a lake. “Rake in the lake,” ha! Honk! I laughed. I dragged the rake far enough, dropped it into the water, and laughed again.

But other stuff on the list isn’t so clear. It asks me at one point to get the farmer to “wear a sun hat.” I see the farmer, who’s wearing a really small hat, and I see the sun hat, which is out of my reach altogether. Curse these flightless wings.

What else can I do? Think, goose brain, think. After knocking out some simpler tasks on the list, I notice that when I pluck a rose from the farmer’s garden, he keeps bending down to replant the rose. Honk! That’s it! I can reach the hat when he bends down, so I do that, run to some shrubs, and hide by lowering my neck. I am a chameleon. He cannot find me in here.

That is a lie. I am a goose. But the farmer still can’t find me, and thus, he covers his bald head with the sun hat. I hear a “swip” sound of a pencil dragging across my list. Success.

We’re talking about Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

Untitled Goose Game launch trailer.

Whenever a page on my list is mostly filled out, a single, “final” task appears. (If I get hung up on or can’t complete one of the original tasks on a list, that’s OK. Something in this weird universe gives me some leeway.) Finishing this “special” task on each list opens some new door to a new town square, or gathering of people, or some other very non-goose zone. I also get another list of tasks, and they’re also all typically annoying. My brain is feeble, but I can read the room: whatever I’m doing here, it’s not typical goose stuff.

As I’m doing all of this, I hear music. When I see people going about their routines, a floaty piano melody plinks in the background, as if I should notice what they’re doing. And when I alarm someone, the piano ditty sounds a little scarier, like something is about to happen. I’ve always resented that my mother didn’t encourage my artistic side when I was a gosling. I could’ve been great at piano, Mama Goose. But mostly, I like these little piano melodies. They goad me along, like something out of one of those children’s television shows I’ve heard about.

That’s the thing I keep coming back to in my little goose brain: this all feels very whimsical. Being a goose isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s not like something out of these video games that humans play, where you get to honk around, be silly, or fake like, I don’t know, a goat or a ceramic mug. Humans have it pretty lucky.

But when I have these lists magically appear under one of my wings, and I get to take my time figuring out the chain of events I need to pull off with my beak, with no worries about hunger, or survival, or snakes (HONK!), I revert to a simpler time. Everything looks, sounds, and feels like being a gosling again. That’s all I want, and I’ll concede that I didn’t need long to finish my goose quest. But it’ll stay with me for some time.

The Good:

  • You won’t find more pure whimsy in a 2019 game.
  • Puzzles strike a delightful balance between tricky and fair, all while letting players reset and retry in a “Super Meat Boy meets point-and-click puzzlers” way; we’ve really never seen anything like it.
  • House House’s knack for lively, cel-shaded characters looks marvelous in action and nothing like cheap Flash animation (meaning, don’t be fooled by the screenshots, which already look colorful and inviting).
  • Dedicated buttons for honking (which affects gameplay) and flapping your wings (which doesn’t).

The Bad:

  • Untitled Goose Game ends relatively quickly. But even that’s not so bad, considering the game achieves what it needs to in terms of puzzle variety and pitch-perfect annoy-the-humans silliness within its five-hour run.

The Ugly:

  • I’ve yet to find a hidden level where the hero gets revenge on the foie gras industry, which would’ve been nice.

Verdict: Honk! Ahem, I mean, buy.

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