Gaming

Why Untitled Goose Game Is Such a Honkin’ Good Time

It’s a goose simulator. You waddle and steal slippers. It brings us unbridled joy.

The goose hides under a table in a still from Untitled Goose Game.
Untitled Goose Game.
House House/Panic Inc.

Evan Urquhart: Hi Dawnthea! We’ve both played Untitled Goose Game, the, er, goose simulation for PC and Nintendo Switch that’s been taking the gaming world by storm, but I don’t actually know what you thought of it. The game just came out on Friday and has been spawning memes ever since. Did you enjoy honking at neighbors, breaking vases, and stealing slippers as much as my family and I did?

Dawnthea Price: Hi Evan! I am loving this game. It is a … particularly hectic workweek, and I’m unwinding by terrorizing everyone in this hamlet on my Switch. It would not be an exaggeration to say I’ve been honking up a storm. How did you and your family decide to add this game to your collection?

Urquhart: I was dimly aware of the game way back in 2017, when a trailer showing some of the gameplay was released by the developer, House House. What really got me then was the goose’s self-assured waddle—I just love nonviolent, funny, accessible games so I was never not going to pick this up. Once I started playing, my whole family began to gather and take turns being the goose. My wife was a particularly aggressive, angry honker. I tended to be more of a sneaky lil’ devil, and my 13-year-old delighted in terrorizing one particular character, the boy with glasses, over and over. My other co-parent, Mandy, was more about completing the checklists. Do you have a particular style of gooseplay?

Price: Cathartic madness? I spent the first couple of hours playing with the game’s boundaries: How far could I drag the rake, radio, or gardener’s keys before he’d stop chasing after them? Which objects could I bite and drag? (Most of them.) Just how close could I get before the NPCs whose lives I’m out to ruin would shoo or kick at me? And once I knew all that? Honk City. Like your 13-year-old, I am extremely about terrorizing that boy with glasses, and I greatly delighted in repeatedly chasing him into the phone booth, untying his shoelaces, and forcing him to buy back his own toys.

I’m not really one for stealth games, and obviously this gooseplay involves a fair amount of stealthiness, especially as you progress. But it’s bright, and cute, and innocuous enough in its protagonist’s(?) very deliberate obnoxiousness. What did you think of that aspect?

Urquhart: It sounds like I enjoy stealth mechanics more than you, but although sneaking around and taking things when NPCs aren’t looking is a big part of completing the objectives, the gooseplay doesn’t feel like any stealth game I can think of. Really, the game it reminds me of most is Bully, the 2006 action-adventure title from Rockstar that toned down the violence of the Grand Theft Auto franchise and added whimsy, allowing the player to prank and terrorize people without killing them. Goose Game is much shorter and simpler than Bully, but it has a similar open world/sandbox feeling that encourages the player to explore, try things, and get to know the NPCs, while having a lovable asshole as a protagonist.

Goose Game is gentler than Bully, though. Both the humor and the art style put me more in mind of a children’s book. The worse things your goose can do to the NPCs is get them wet or make them fall on their bum, and if they chase you, the worst that happens is that you drop what you’re holding and have to try again when they’re not watching.

Did Goose Game remind you of any other games you’ve played?

Price: First, you absolutely do enjoy stealth mechanics more than me, because I enjoy them not at all. I am terrible at games that require stealth, and the classic stealth sequence can be the make-or-break point of a game for me. That said, the simplicity and art style reminded me a lot of Katamari Damacy, and I’ve been playing the Reroll remake lately so it’s a pretty fresh comparison. It’s got echoes of that game’s chaotic vibe, too.

But in that respect, it’s simultaneously … not really like anything I’ve played before. I don’t tend to play many gimmicky games, and “being an asshole goose” initially struck me as pure gimmick. I’m having so much fun, though, and it’s largely because the pure joy our co-workers expressed about the game led me to pick it up.

Maybe that—the unbridled joy you hear from anyone who’s played it—is why it’s so popular? What do you think?

Urquhart: Katamari Damacy is one of my favorite games! I’ve been revisiting it too, and you’re completely right, the art style and the humor are similar.

Something I noticed about the promotion of the game, before I experienced it firsthand, was that the gimmickiness was really played up. I think that may have helped get the game a first look from gamers who were just looking for something that stood out from other games. But the actual gooseplay, I agree, is far more joyful, less wacky, and weird. The protagonist’s animations are extremely gooselike in the most charming way. Even without any dialogue at all you get a sense for each person in the neighborhood, their distinct personality, and even their relationships with one another. I think the depth behind the gimmick is why it’s become such a sensation.

I think by now we’ve pretty thoroughly dissected the game where one becomes a goose. Any last thoughts?

Price: I hope I’m a goose in my next life. This has been great practice.