There is a spectrum of expression on the broad canvas of gaming. On the one end, you have your big budget, commercialized, so-called “triple-A” titles. Games like God of War. Red Dead Redemption. Halo. At the other end of this spectrum there are the more intimate titles from indie directors, some of which are made by teams as small as one person. Journey. Celeste. Cuphead. These titles challenge our expectations of gaming and, free from the demands of frenzied console fanbases, rewrite our definition of the medium itself.
And then, somewhere far off this spectrum, way out in a limbo of irreverent ambiguity, is Untitled Goose Game. It’s a game where you play as a honking goose who loves to cause mischief. Your mission: Waddle around a placid British town and ruin everyone’s day. You can crane your neck, hunch down, splay out your wings, and honk your bill. It’s stupid. Utterly inane. Devoid of even the slightest trace of commentary or intellectual discourse. But, like Andy Kaufman singing the theme song of Mighty Mouse, or those tomatoes plants that are randomly growing in the East River in New York City, the goose game is that rare yet absolutely delightful phenomenon that begs the question, “Why does this exist?” And though it never bothers to answer that question, the joy of Untitled Goose Game’s levity makes it one of the most fulfilling video games in years.
When Insomniac’s Spider-Man PS4 game debuted last September, players were roused by the raw energy of its open world, making it among the most decorated games of 2018. It was Spider-Man’s boundless freedom that made it so unique. You could leap from a building and plummet hundreds of stories to the sidewalk, scoop up a lost pigeon, and soar miles above taxi cabs and bustling Manhattanites without reservation.
Though House House’s Untitled Goose Game was developed with less than a fraction of the resources that Insomniac had on Spider-Man, its tiny team of four people somehow managed to create an experience that feels not at all unlike Spider-Man. I know, it sounds insane, but it’s true. Stomping around this peaceful English village, Untitled Goose Game is the first title I’ve played since Spider-Man that feels, well, free—unlike games since Spider-Man such as Red Dead 2 and God of War, which burdened us with the oppressive task of staying alive under tragic circumstances.
However you feel about the ridiculous concept of Untitled Goose Game, you can’t deny, it is joyful. And, a lot of the time, that’s why we play video games, isn’t it? Not always to transport ourselves to strange and disparate worlds, but to enjoy a brief respite from reality. Hell, even people who don’t play video games should be able to understand this sentiment. If you have a free moment, there’s nothing wrong with a little brainless fun.
But that’s not to say Untitled Goose Game is completely brain dead. Much the opposite, in fact. House House created a title that’s both mindless and difficult. At its heart, Goose is a puzzle game. Controlling our unnamed honking friend, you burst into the humdrum life of an innocent gardener. As he tends to his plants, your missions include: stealing his vegetables, throwing his tools in the pond, and, most brutally, tricking the poor dumbass into hammering his own thumb. From there, the goose game asks you to complete a to-do list of mischief in the undeserving town. It’ll have you stealing eyeglasses from a small idiot child. Splitting the push broom of a street grocer. Even breaking down lawn signs that explicitly prohibit geese.
There is no handbook for the goose game. No tutorial mode. You’re not gaining special abilities or unlocking combos. You’re not shooting down tanks with a rocket launcher like in GTA V. These are puzzles, and they’re not simple. When you lose, no one dies. But somehow, without stakes, without narrative, without even a fucking name, Untitled Goose Game is the medium at its purest, forcing the player to just play.
The goose game has already become something of an indie darling on the internet. Memes, as expected, have abounded, and players are begging for more from the roughly three-to-four-hour-long experience. If I were in charge of a big game development studio, I’d go full Goose. Give us an Untitled Goose Game as big as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Send our goose to space. At least release a DLC package where you can run amuck in a corporate office! God knows we could use more of that little conniving bird in our day-to-day lives.
This game has gotten a ton of praise, both ironic and absurd. But to be completely honest, there’s nothing ironic about how fun Untitled Goose Game is. It’s exactly the sort of title that makes gaming such a special form of art. It’s completely singular in its experience. Whether you’re a lifelong gamer or a casual fan who hasn’t touched a controller since the Super Nintendo, Untitled Goose Game (on Switch, PC, and Mac OS) is worth every penny of its $ 20 price tag. Please honk.