Something I, as a game reviewer, constantly have to balance are my cynicism and optimism. Going into every game I aim to have an open mind, but the human side of me often will influence things. The trick is to not let the negatives overwhelm the experience, while also not letting the positives completely negate any criticism I might have. To assist in doing this I give myself a buffer between putting the game down, and writing my review. Normally this is a few days’ time, but I spent a week between writing this, and last playing Untitled Goose Game.
Many of you already know what this title is. Released as early as September 2019, Untitled Goose Game is a self proclaimed “slapstick-stealth-sandbox” genre game also available on PC, Switch, and PS4. It was the Xbox One version that I reviewed, and this was my first time ever playing it. I had heard of it before starting it up, having seen the memes, but never had the urge to play it.
I want to right off the bat say something positive about the game, so let me tell you about the artistic direction. Visually I find the use of cel-shaded graphics in any game a plus, as this choice always helps to keep it from aging into a blocky, optic nightmare. Untitled Goose Game combines them with a strong color scheme that distinguishes objects in a very pleasing way.
However despite the success of those choices, the selection icon is a miss for me. Object interaction is context sensitive, so it’s hard to tell at a glance what is manipulatable and what’s just set dressing. Also in terms of art direction, the audio is something that is just there. I would actually call it a negative because while the background music is unmemorable, I felt that muting the game weakened the overall experience.
The honking noise the goose makes is actually a positive though, despite it being extremely annoying. It’s supposed to be obnoxious because that’s what your character is, a horrible goose. The game description for Untitled Goose Game is very meta and humorous, mentioning that you have “a dedicated honk button (!!!)”. The description downplays it as this button is actually extremely important to the gameplay.
This brings me to the controls and here’s where I start bringing the mood down. I hate them. The actual layout is simple and minimalistic, giving you only a few seemingly important actions. One of which is spreading your wings, a button I personally believe to be useless. These are all fine, but drags things down is the way you move the goose. It has a weight problem, giving it lasting momentum that makes walking feel unresponsive. In open spaces this isn’t so much a problem, but it becomes one when trying to maneuver yourself into an item’s context sensitive range, or when humans chase you away.
Here we lead into another massive issue I had; the townsfolk. Ironically the game’s description page again provides a perfect quote, “you hate them”. These human beings are the main reason why I find the game insufferable. Each area features a list of tasks to complete, all of which involve the aforementioned humans. Untitled Goose Game proclaims itself to be a “slapstick-stealth-sandbox”, but I would argue it’s more of a puzzle game.
Having to work against these people is extremely difficult, and navigating with and around them was unfun. To solve some of the puzzles you need to do things like distracting the citizens to lure them away from areas or objects. Problem is they’re fickle, jumping from displaced items in a way only the lord of chaos knows. This caused massive anxiety in me when trying to collect items for my tasks. Early in the game, one of the assignments is to gather items for a picnic. The gardener would ignore my created distractions and instantly start erasing all my progress, causing me high levels of anger and sorrow.
There are so many problems with these villagers that I could go on and on. From the way they run faster than you so it’s pointless to try and escape them when they see you. From the way they cause the goose to flail uncontrollably when they touch it, making you wait a solid 10 seconds to recover and do anything. From the delay in them resetting their positions and forcing you to wait and fall into boredom just to get another attempt at solving a puzzle. They are absolutely terrible and I despise them.
I hate that I couldn’t find the same joy as many have, but in my frustration I think I have found the answer as to why; the lack of a proper tutorial. Quick spoiler about one of the chores, involving making a boy wear the wrong glasses. I learned from looking online that you could untie his shoes, causing him to bend over to re-tie them and allowing you to scare him. This causes his glasses to fall off and be replaced. I questioned why I would even think of that.
It was inquiring about this that made me realize the game never put me in the mindset to naturally come up with this plan. Tutorials are often thought of as hand holding moments, like throwing up button prompts to walk out of a starting area. I think back to She Remembered Caterpillars and how it was able to use visuals and gameplay to prepare me for the challenges ahead. If Untitled Goose Game had a tutorial that used gameplay examples to teach me what to expect, I think I could have found the game much less aggravating.
When I worked at Blockbuster when I was younger, I realized an important fact about personal tastes. No matter the quality of a given media, there will always be someone who loves it, and someone who hates it. There is no unanimously praised or loathed form of entertainment. If you need proof of that, here I am talking down about a game that many would say they really enjoyed. Many of my friends told me I was going to be happy playing Untitled Goose Game, and the fact I’m writing so negatively brings me no joy.
At the end of the day I don’t recommend Untitled Goose Game. Between clunky controls and the lack of context or information I rage quit on 3 separate attempts to progress. I only made it to the third area by consulting an online guide. I asked myself, If I’m only progressing because of continuous help, why am I even playing? I desperately tried to have fun, tried to get into the proper mindset, and failed. I had anxiety breakdowns and felt enraged to unhealthy levels.
That said, I would suggest that you evaluate yourself if you’re thinking about picking up this game. There are definitely many people who have found enjoyment in it, and you might well be one of them. But know that it’s possible that you, like me, might be massively let down by Untitled Goose Game. I hate having to say this, but “HONK” this game