Don’t worry, everyone: the goose game is good. So far, anyway.
I got a chance to play a demo of Untitled Goose Game, a game about a goose that is also an asshole (are those terms redundant?), at Double Fine’s Day of the Devs event in San Francisco earlier this month. I came in worried that it might fall flat, its twig-thin goose legs buckling under the weight of a million viral internet posts’ worth of expectation. Instead, I was happy to find a clever mix of stealthy heist shenanigans and player-created slapstick humor. I understand why geese are assholes now: because it’s fun.
The demo took place in a relatively small space near a garden. I was given a series of goofy tasks to complete, but otherwise I was free to do as I pleased. The tasks, naturally, centered around making a hapless gardener’s life miserable. First, I had to get him to unlock the gate to his garden. I ended up doing it by activating his sprinkler system and forcing him to come outside and turn it off, but I also could’ve picked up a portable radio, turned it on, and gotten his attention that way. Then I could’ve run off with the radio and thrown it in a nearby lake. Why? Why not.
Once inside the garden, I quickly discovered that Untitled Goose Game is just as much about setups as it is sneaking and tormenting. For instance, one task on my list read “have a picnic,” and it required me to drag a bunch of vegetables and other picnic-adjacent items out of the garden and onto a picnic blanket. Bear in mind, though, that I was a goose. If the gardener saw me swiping the fruits, by which I mean vegetables, of his labor, he’d snatch them right back. It wasn’t a game-over situation or anything—you’d have to be one fucked-up gardener to murder a goose for trying to take a carrot—but I had to be clever about it. So in order to nab a carrot, I ended up plucking the garden’s single, precious rose out of the ground and running off with it, forcing the gardener to give chase. Then I tossed the rose, ran back, and grabbed a carrot.
After a bit of messing around, I realized the garden itself was structured kinda like a Metal Gear level. Wooden plant enclosures functioned like walls and line-of-sight-blocking barriers, while the gardener roamed a series of relatively predictable paths. In order to steal a rake (which I needed to throw in a lake, because rhyming), I ended up dragging it from the back of the garden around the side and along a series of enclosures, making sure that the gardener wasn’t looking when I moved between them.
Assigned tasks were fun enough, but frankly, my favorite part of the demo was just messing around. Before I sneaked away with the rake, I kept letting the gardener grab onto it and spin me every which way. It was hilarious. I also repeatedly knocked his keys off his belt just to irritate him. Then there was the time I put the radio near a sprinkler and turned on the sprinkler as soon as the gardener was in range. (Cleverly, this also broke the radio.) Every time I got caught, the goose’s animations gave off this air of huffy indignance. He’d puff his wings and waddle away like “How dare you accuse me of that thing you just saw me do?”
Only one thing annoyed me about the demo, and that was the controls. The goose had a good sense of momentum and personality to his movements, but there were times when I just couldn’t get him to grab objects. In frantic moments when I only had seconds to grab an item before the gardener disarmed whatever elaborate Rube Goldberg distraction I’d set up, this made all the difference. It was frustrating to watch my well-laid plans come crashing down through no fault of my own.
Untitled Goose Game won’t be out until sometime next year, though, so there’s time for developer House House to tighten that up. And also, maybe, to give it a title.