Push Me Pull You, House House's release prior to Untitled Goose Game, radiates pure chaotic energy. It's a multiplayer game of Catdog-like humans—two heads connected to the same tubular body. It's Human Centipede, by way of Keita Takahashi. It's a game that I've found hard to forget since the indie couch co-op boom of a few years ago, from its pitter-patter sound of hands smacking the ground to the general grotesqueness of its concept. The studio's follow-up, Untitled Goose Game, couldn't be more different. And yet, it has that same silly energy.
Untitled Goose Game slaps you down as a goose with attitude. You honk, flap your wings, and pick up whatever's grabbable with your beak. Your goal? To annoy people, as geese tend to do. (One out of every three people has a goose terror story. This is a scientific conclusion I've come to with my own experiences.) It's maybe the purest game I've played in some time.
That's because the controls are sweetly simple. You waddle around, ducking your head low with a trigger hold to be stealthy, or flapping your wings with the opposite trigger. You can grab things, which you carry with ease or struggle with, dragging them slowly. And you have a honk button, letting you honk whenever, wherever, anytime you want. That's it. It's the sort of game that I can pop up on a TV when I'm visiting my parents and pass the controller around; or they can watch, and have just as good of a time. It's universally hilarious, and relatively easy to play around with.
Untitled Goose Game operates in a similar fashion to IO Interactive's recent Hitman games, only instead of lining up expert assassinations, you're doing things like baiting a kid to trip in a puddle by untying their shoes. As the goose, you're this town's worst bully. You relish in the madness, but it's all in good fun. (I did feel bad tormenting a literal child at one point, where I chased him around, stole his glasses and toys, and so on.)
It's a short game with dozens upon dozens of possibilities to instigate chaos. It's all set in one quaint, Britain-like neighborhood. You drift from place to place, ranging from a gardener's home to a pub, always wreaking havoc as you venture onward. The map folds onto itself and gates eventually unlock. It makes traversing the small-scale open-world easier, and honestly, a little more fun. I liked popping back into the starting garden area to steal something from the gardener just for kicks.
To progress, you must complete the tasks listed on each area's to-do list. The tasks range from super easy to very tricky, with some requiring a number of actions to line up. There's one early on, for instance, that requires baiting a gardener to an area to pick up an item, and as the goose, you must hobble to the other side of the gate to turn on the sprinkler nearby to get them wet. The deeper you get into Untitled Goose Game, the more complex these set-ups get. Some tasks had me scratching my head, but luckily you don't need to complete every task on the list to move forward, just the majority of them.
There are a few hitches though, as one might expect from any AI-observation driven game. Sometimes NPCs glitch into each other if they're investigating the same thing. Other times the actions that need to line up feel a bit too specific. I spent far too long trying to knock a bucket on a man's head, for example, because I had to have him observe one specific item rather than another I dropped nearby. He would only stand in a particular spot with the item intended by the game. While these frustrating moments are rare, they do occasionally dampen the light mood.
There are side tasks that you can happen upon randomly too. While driving two neighbors mad by snaking through their yards, I once caught something one neighbor threw over their fence in midair. When I did so, one of the obscured tasks on the "to-do (as well)" list in the menu was marked as complete. In the post-game, the question marks hiding these secret tasks is lifted, giving you a lot more specificity on how to accomplish everything the goose can muster.
A part of me wishes it didn't have that post-game perk though. A lot of the fun I had with Untitled Goose Game was just messing with objects, seeing how nearby humans would react, and screwing with them accordingly. It's the same pleasure I get out of Hitman, I suppose. You can follow the waypoints to an uncomplicated assassination, sure, but you can also throw an exploding rubber duck at someone when they're walking away from you while dressed as a clown. The second option is always more fun! Likewise, that's where a lot of the joy of Untitled Goose Game lies: going wherever your honking heart leads you.
When all was honked and done, I found myself wanting to spend more time with Untitled Goose Game even after the credits rolled. And so, I've found myself waddling around its world again each night, crossing off more to-do list items that I never got to my first go-around. I've made a sport of startling the town's residents and destroying their "No Goose" signs they've put up to try and intimidate me. It's all a healthy bout of more delightful chaos, and honestly, it might be the most charming game I've played all year.
Untitled Goose Game is a game about being a bully, but an adorable one. As a pesky goose, you honk, waddle, and drive human beings nuts—I assume as real-life geese do. The occasional frustrating task barely holds back Untitled Goose Game when it's at its best: where you're setting up elaborate (or not) situations to annoy people and ruin their day.