The goose is finally loose.
In 2018, the Game Developers Conference, held in San Francisco, previewed a remarkable game that would quietly become the culture’s new obsession a year later. It didn’t feature any action (the gun-toting kind, at least), no dramatic tension to speak of, not even a Norman Reedus motion-capture peeing performance. This self-described “stealth puzzle game” just had one playable character and one goal.
You’re a goose and your job is to be a total dick.
That’s the pure joy emanating from this weekend’s release of Untitled Goose Game. (It’s a game about a goose that didn’t have an official title, hence it’s now-official title Untitled Goose Game.) It’s almost a primal joy. As the gaming medium continues to become more advanced with new technology and storytelling capabilities, creators embrace more creative methods to comment on the world in which we all live. Hideo Kojima, the prolific mastermind behind Metal Gear Solid, teases an entirely new form of videogame with Death Stranding. Untitled Goose Game is not that. In some ways it can be like Metal Gear Solid in that it’s about strategy and going unseen when you can. However, the description gets to the heart of this journey: “It’s a lovely morning in the village, and you are a horrible goose.”
Developed by Australia-based indie studio House House and published by Panic Inc., the game begins with the player’s most formidable weapon: a honk. When the goose honks, kids with glasses run away in fear; gardeners turn their heads, leaving their precious tools unguarded; and old men playing ring toss lose their focus, leaving you a window to foil their good time.
While players have free rein to use their avian abilities for pure evil — like untying a child’s shoes so that when he chases you for stealing his glasses later he’ll fall flat on his face — there is some order to the chaos.
The goose comes with a to-do list of terrorist acts. When you begin, after you take a tranquil swim through a park stream, it’s your job to find your way into a private garden, get the gardener soaking wet (your only choice is turning on the sprinkler as he tends to his precious plants), steal his keys, and generally ruin his day by being a boisterous, pesky imp. It’s some truly messed-up stuff, but how you achieve these tasks is up to you.
Like the infamous honey badger before it, the goose doesn’t give a you-know-what.
The origin of Untitled Goose Game is equally enjoyable to witness. Michael McMaster from House House shared screenshots from a Slack chat that begins with “let’s make a game about this” and quickly evolves into a conversation about how “the whole animal is just two colors” and how “the beak frowns always.” That’s why, in just a few days since its release, the game has sparked joy over the weekend: It’s about the simple joys in watching a goose run amok.
The animation, too, is less involved than whatever project is vying for a Game Award, but it lends itself to a more stripped-down puzzle that homes in on the raw, slapstick pleasures brought by this tormented creature’s existence. (What happened to this bird that it now hopes to turn earth into the 10th layer of hell?)
Like a mad Captain Ahab chasing the white whale, the white-feathered goose is a blank canvas to catch your wants, dreams, hopes, whatever you’re chasing, whatever you want to be… or maybe it’s just really fun to be a total bird bastard.
Untitled Goose Game is available now through Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Nintendo Switch.