Untitled Goose Game is an endearing and enjoyable combination of stealth, slapstick, and sandbox, but it ends before it gets the chance to truly spread its wings.
Geese are naturally funny animals. The way they waddle. The way they honk. The way they chase off humans who get too close. Out of all the waterfowl, geese are arguably the funniest. They are also criminally underrepresented in the world of video games, but Untitled Goose Game is here to address that. This stealth-puzzle-comedy game stars a powerful white goose and includes all the honking, flapping and pecking that you can handle. Surprisingly, though, Untitled Goose Game is very reminiscent of Hitman in its design. The goose's solitary quest to mess with the peaceful inhabitants of a village is a clever arrangement of stealth puzzles and physical gags, but it's over so soon that it just feels like an elaborate proof of concept in the end.
Untitled Goose Game was developed by Melbourne-based indie team House House and published by Panic, with government assistance from the Australian state of Victoria. The setup is simple, but rife with possibilities: you play as a horrible goose in a small, picturesque village full of quaint, peaceful people. When I say "horrible goose," I mean that this goose's reason for being is to torment the villagers by tricking them, scaring them, stealing their stuff, making them hurt themselves, and more. This dratted goose waddles through the village, encountering ever more people going about their daily routines and discovering new ways to bamboozle them. Once the goose has adequately ruined a person or group's morning, the next area of the village opens up and the goose goes on to cause even more mishaps.
The goose has four basic abilities: running, flapping, honking, and grabbing stuff with its beak. This might sound like an extremely limited toolkit, but using these tools creatively is the central conceit of Untitled Goose Game. Aside from the obvious comic effects that these avian talents have, they're a delightful way of manipulating the AI to fulfill the game's objectives. Here's where the Hitman comparison comes in: each smartly-designed area has a "target" (or "targets") that you're meant to harass by solving equally clever and varied stealth puzzles. Making a gardener hammer his thumb (by sneaking up behind him and honking) or stealing a boy's glasses (by pecking apart his shoelaces and making him fall) are just a couple examples of how the game hybridizes puzzle-solving with slapstick comedy to great effect.
The other major element of Untitled Goose Game's appeal is in its presentation. The game's aesthetic reflects the kind of humor and charm of a Katamari game, with its cartoonish effects and its vibrant, bold graphics. It's always fun to see what the next area looks like and find out how the minimalist art style captures another bit of quiet village life (until the goose shows up). Outstanding sound design also plays a big part, especially the game's adaptive music. A jaunty piano tune rises and falls in intensity along with the goose's actions, which is the perfect accompaniment to get an extra chuckle out of you as you chase someone down or run away with their property.
Untitled Goose Game may be full of gleeful antics, but the biggest disappointment is that it doesn't last for very long. If you're expecting to become the honking scourge of an entire town, you should rein in your hopes; the game involves just a handful of relatively linear areas. A single playthrough only lasts about two or three hours at the most, and the player will see most of what the game has to offer in that time. To its credit, the game does add an expanded list of objectives to complete after finishing it the first time, providing at least a little replay value. But a joke always becomes less funny the more you hear it, and Untitled Goose Game is no different - once you know what to do and have already done it, repeating the gag is much less enjoyable.
Untitled Goose Game feels like the start of something great, but just the start. It's certainly worth the asking price for those who plan to play it with friends or record it for viewers, but it's pretty lean as a single-player experience. Still, with this much heart and humor, Untitled Goose Game deserves to succeed and hopefully spawn a more robust sequel. Maybe that sequel will even be titled!
Untitled Goose Game is available now on Nintendo Switch and the Epic Games Store for $19.99. A Switch code was provided to Screen Rant for the purpose of this review.