Entertainment

Why Everyone Is Going Crazy for This Game About an Annoying, Horrible Goose

What's with the 'Untitled Goose Game' hype?

untitled goose game
I have disrespected the most miserable boy in the world. | House House
I have disrespected the most miserable boy in the world. | House House

"It's a lovely day in the village, and you are a horrible goose," promises the logline of the new Untitled Goose Game, which recently came out for the Switch and PC/Mac. And indeed, your mission to annoy as many people as possible, more or less, as a no-good, dreadful goose that can't die has charmed its early players and the greater online ecosystem with its irritating honks and chaotically rakish impulses. There are already "game of the year" squawks in an otherwise extremely competitive year for games (and we haven't even gotten to Death Stranding yet!). From an outsider's perspective, it could be hard to tell how irony loaded the initial wave of praise has been, but rest assured, Untitled Goose Game is the real deal. Here's why you've been seeing so many people raving about this unlikely favorite.

What do you "do" in Untitled Goose Game?

Essentially, you walk your horrible goose around different areas of an English village and trick people into doing stuff for you, or distract them long enough to steal something from them, or disrespect them to the point of ridicule. Sometimes you open gates by finagling latchkeys or honk long enough until someone opens it for you. You're the worst -- a total jerk! Each setting that you unlock has a to-do list of chaos, a majority of which you have to complete before you can move on to the next area. (First-level examples where you terrorize a farm include: steal the groundskeeper's keys, rake in the lake -- meaning, drag the groundskeeper's rake into the nearby lake without getting caught -- and have a picnic.) However, you can always waddle back into areas that you've cleared but left an item or two unresolved to finish the level off, if you're a completist who couldn't figure out how to get the friggin' groundskeeper wear his sun hat at first. But that's pretty much the gist.

Mehehehehhehee. | House House

Why is this appealing?

You mean, you don't find walking your haughty triangle body around honking at people who hate you fun? Suspicious, but fair. Described by its developers House House as a "slapstick-stealth-sandbox," Untitled Goose Game is basically just a puzzle game that's more sophisticated than it lets on at first glance. Each level's tasks are deceptively complex, and the difficulty jumps fairly significantly from one area to the next. For example, that "have a picnic" job in the first area means you need to collect a laundry list of items and carry them in your beak to your picnic blanket without getting caught by the groundskeeper, lest he take your loot back to where it came from; when you reach the next part of the town, you need to think about how to use your environment and its seemingly random items to trick the dumbass neighborhood kid into the phone booth so you can lock him in there, or untie his shoes so you can nab his glasses off his face. And so on and so forth. If you're a "gamer" who "gets" references, you'll find parts of recent titles like Baba Is You and Donut Country in here.

There is a perverse pleasure in doing all this bad stuff as a storybook cartoon goose bastard, which is heightened by the clever in-game details. The horrible goose holds itself like only a shitty goose would, staring down at items it dropped from its beak with the same energy your bad, but playful, dog or cat would if it dropped something it knows it wasn't supposed to be messing with at your feet. It stares back at the people nearby who so blatantly don't want this awful goose around as if it got off on being in places it's not supposed to be. In progressive levels, you can leverage items like glass milk bottles or traffic cones to alter the timbre of your honk, or use walkie talkies to scare villagers (heheheheh). Even honking and flapping your wings just to wreak havoc or scare the dumbass village boy brings an impish joy. 

Lastly is the delightful and sparse reactive soundtrack, adapted from Claude Debussy's Preludes, as The Verge reported. A solo piano twinkles softly when the bad goose is thinking about getting up to no good, and hits in full chaotic force when the bad goose starts a conflict with a human that doesn't want it around, or gets caught stealing something it shouldn't have.

untitled goose game
The terrible laundry thief! | House House

Who made this and why…?

Funny enough, Untitled Goose Game began as a joke. In 2016, developer Stuart Gillespie-Cook dropped a stock image of a goose into the four-person House House Slack at 8am suggesting the studio make a game about "this." His coworker Michael McMaster screenshotted the thoughts that followed and posted it to Twitter, which got an exceedingly positive response:

The Melbourne-based House House, which was wrapping up their smaller indie hit Push Me Pull You at the time, ran with the concept and put out a trailer in 2017 that wasn't supposed to be taken entirely seriously. But again, the response was so massive that they decided to blow it out into the three-ish hour game you can play now. 

As for why they went with a game about a horrible goose, "Geese are just funny," McMaster told NintendoLife. Being from Australia where geese are sparse, he admitted the animals don't hit the same nerve for him as they might elsewhere. "It turns out people have a lot of feelings about geese! I think it has a lot to do with how threatening they are, in a kind of mundane way -- although we’ve never encountered them ourselves, I think we’d underestimated how many people had, and nearly everyone from the Northern Hemisphere that we've spoken to about the game has relayed their own stories of traumatic goose encounters. It seems like we've tapped into a relatively universal experience without meaning to."

untitled goose game
Honk honk. | House House

What are people saying about it?

The games press is running positive reviews, and though it's only been out since September 20, tons of Twitter users are popping off calling it the game of the year. People fuckin' love this game, and love to disrespect the dumbass village boy -- there's even some loose fan fiction about it.

In short, no one can get enough of being an absolutely atrocious goose. 

untitled goose game
Run, goose, run!!!! | House House

OK, well, now I want to play this too.

Hell yeah, baby, join the goose gang! It only takes, like, three hours to breeze through. You can download it for your Nintendo Switch (or Switch Lite soon!). If you don't have one of those, you can just as easily play it on any computer, Mac or PC -- it'll be available on Steam soon, too. Right now, it's discounted 25% at $14.99, down from $19.99, on the Nintendo Store and Epic Games Store. Happy honkings, jerks.

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Leanne Butkovic (@leanbutk) is an entertainment editor at Thrillist.