Sometimes, you just want to ruin everyone's day. That's your mission in Untitled Goose Game (House House/Panic), a cartoonish stealth game that places you in the feet (and beak) of an unnamed waterfowl who's out to terrorize the local humans.
You'll start by ducking under branches and trees, but you'll soon find yourself pilfering a picnic basket faster than you can say "Yogi Bear." The delightful, perplexing puzzles in Untitled Goose Game ($20, Nintendo Switch, PC/Mac via Epic Game Store) made me chuckle and scratch my head in equal parts. Puzzle fans will get a kick out of this title, which is priced right for its length. At times, the game felt like the oddest take on Metal Gear Solid's sneaking missions ever.
Really ducking simple gameplay
Your missions, if you choose to accept them, send you on a quest to disrupt the lives of the folk living in the small village adjacent to your goose's lair. In the first map, your goals include "get into the garden," "get the groundskeeper wet" and "have a picnic."
Objectives come from a sheet written in floral cursive (I'm not sure how a goose can read) of unknown origin, as if the goose is being sent around town by some sort of unseen god of mischief (let's call them Low-Key).
You complete each mission by grabbing or nudging items (A), and bothering humans by honking (Y). To evade those pesky men, women and children, you can run (B), moving less like a real goose and more like a secret agent up to no good. You can also crouch (ZL).
The goose moves with about as much dexterity and smoothness as you'd expect, which is to say, he moves slightly awkwardly. You'll want to slow down when you need to take a sharp corner around a bench while avoiding a human's gaze.
Some tasks are simple, and the game does a great job of visually laying out the items and actions necessary. But as you progress throughout the village, your objectives require more interpretation. This is one of the best ways in which the game's difficulty ramps up.
A story of chaos
After completing enough tasks on a sheet, you advance to another map in the village, and so on. I could give you a huge spoiler about the big finale mission of Untitled Goose Game, but I want you to see it for yourselves.
Untitled Goose Game doesn't even tell you which of your tasks are necessary to move onto the next stage, or signal which missions you can currently accomplish. I got the impression that some tasks require going back after the grand finale. You sometimes need to try everything in order to advance.
Why I love these geeses to pieces
If you enjoy puzzle games, stealth games or even just slapstick comedy, I think there's a strong chance you'll get a kick out of Untitled Goose Game. As I moved from tormenting a gardener, to a small child, to a shop owner, I chuckled at the low-stakes nihilistic mayhem of it all.
Untitled Goose Game's cartoonish aesthetic, which separates it from the more realistic-looking Goat Simulator, makes all the chaos even more adorable.
None of these people did anything to incur your wrath. Your goose is just the kind of animal that wants to watch the world shriek. It all works because you're not destroying their lives, just casually ruining a single day.
We've all had our days spoiled by an accident or other careless behavior, but Untitled Goose Game suggests a darker underlying possibility. That the mastiff on the street who got too intimate with you is just a jerk. That everyone who's ever harmed you had intent.
Of course, I kid. But the whole of Untitled Goose Game is just that bonkers.
Bottom line: just honking buy it
By now, you've probably got a feeling as to whether this game is right for you. At $20, I think it's not a huge risk to take. I made it from start to the "final big mission" (which rolls the end credits) in about 6 days, but don't think that it's necessarily a fast play.
After I finished, I noticed that my to-do lists still had a ton of tasks left for me to complete. So, take note: Don't worry about a dearth of content.
Each of Untitled Goose Game's maps packs strong laughs and tough head-scratchers, and it all wraps up properly in an excellent conclusion. Skipping this game would be a fowl call.