Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Untitled Goose Game (PS4)

Since its announcement, Untitled Goose Game became somewhat of an internet meme, largely due to its unusual title and visual style, as well as its premise of annoying a village as a goose. I had seen gameplay of it, but got interested in playing it myself and eventually got a physical PS4 copy from iam8bit that came with a couple bonus items. Although it lives up to the hype, its rather short length for the price left me a little torn.

In Untitled Goose Game, you control an Emden goose making mischief in an English village. The controls are simple, with a quick and concise tutorial section that instructs you how to make the goose honk, run, duck, grab objects and flap its wings. After this, you can explore four different areas of the town while completing a to-do list for each one, with one extra task added that lets you advance once you complete most items on the list.

There isn’t really a story aside from great environmental details, but considering this is a sillier and non-violent take on the Hitman series, that’s actually a good thing, since it keeps the gameplay completely in focus. Like Hitman, Untitled Goose Game is great at presenting you with a goal and then giving you the tools to figure out the best way of accomplishing that goal. Whatever approach you take for each item on the to-do list, it can easily lead to very humorous moments. Even for tasks that have one solution, part of the fun comes from figuring it out. If you want to, you can ignore the list and just have fun interacting with the world or antagonizing the villagers.

Some tasks require a little patience.

When you complete the game, you not only get an ending that puts a hilarious twist on the goose’s actions, you also get an extra set of to-do lists with more difficult challenges. These challenges include speedrun goals where you complete each of the original to-do lists before you hear a church bell ring. Completing every single to-do list then unlocks an extra reward that feels appropriate for your effort. Having this extra content really helps the replay value, since otherwise the game is only about two hours long.

You can have some additional fun if you play the two-player mode, which got patched in sometime after release. As a funny detail, this mode has an Untitled Geese Game logo after the tutorial in place of the original. This mode includes the exact same to-do lists as the single player mode, but adding in a second player opens up new possibilities for completing lists and causing mayhem. Additionally, Player One still controls an Emden goose while Player Two controls a Chinese goose with its own model and honks.

Oh dear. Two horrible geese!

Untitled Goose Game also has plenty of charm in its minimalist art style. Although there aren’t any really detailed textures, it’s visually appealing and gives you just enough information that you can tell what all the objects are and the setting still feels like a real English town. Human NPCs have only basic facial features, but this makes sense because their exact appearance doesn’t really matter to the goose, just that they’re the right person to harass.

Since the setting is based in reality, I appreciated the touches of realism that helped sell it. While NPCs make minimal noises that still express their emotions, the goose makes realistic honking sounds and has realistic movements, including occasionally wagging its tail when idle. Considering the goose is the star of the show, it’s great they went the extra mile.

The goose's movements look realistic.

Composer Dan Golding also deserves credit for the reactive piano-based soundtrack. The compositions help give the game its unique identity and it’s fun hearing how the music changes in response to the intensity of the on-screen action. As a bonus, the game doesn’t cover everything with music and knows when to have quiet moments that let the player focus.

I had a lot of fun playing Untitled Goose Game, but the short length can disappoint those looking for something more substantial, even if there are ways to squeeze more time out of it. If you’re at all interested and the $20 price tag doesn’t bother you, then I’d say go for it. Otherwise, if you’re on the fence, consider a sale.

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