Untitled Goose Game is so strange, yet so satisfying
Have you ever seen one of those videos where birds attack people in the park? Where someone has food or a bright object and the goose attacks them? One time I was at the beach with my family, and my sister had a sandwich in her hand. She was jokingly taunting a goose, and then out of nowhere the goose stole the sandwich from my sister’s hand and ran off (seemingly) honking to his friends about his success!
Late last year, House House and Dan Golding released Untitled Goose Game. This game is just like my real-life encounter, except instead of being attacked by a goose, you are the goose. Seeing everything from that vantage point creates a whole new gaming experience.
The ingenuity of the goose’s vantage point is what makes Untitled Goose Game so addictive (although there is even more to it than that). You honk, you grab, you flap your wings — whatever it takes. You are an agent of chaos. The controls are simple because the character is simple. To add more complexity would make it seem like you are not really a farm animal.
The graphics reinforce the same game aesthetic — similar to a game like Journey or Arise: A Simple Story, the goal is to create an otherworldly experience. You really are a goose and a goose lives a simple life. It works because it’s not a high-res game with brilliant graphics.
Another thing I loved about this minimalist game was the classic to-do list. As the game progresses, you perform tasks repetitively, which also matches up with what (you would presume) would be the life of a goose. These items range from “make the kid put on the wrong pair of glasses” to “put the rake in the river” (yes, these real tasks from the game).
Naturally, though the task is simple, they are not easy. This is satisfying from a gameplay perspective because (even as humans) we are task-oriented. We like to do things. We like repetition. However, the second you grab the rake, the gardener comes and steals it back from you. In comes a hidden second step of distracting the gardener. It’s maddening and fun like you would expect from a game where you are a goose.
With something as complex as making the kid put on the wrong glasses, you first have to get the kid to take off his current glasses, then misplace them, and then grab another pair, which you need to have in place ahead of time. You might call this “simple complexity” — often the puzzles had me scratching my head, hopelessly addicted to a game that looks like it could have been created decades ago.
Another incredibly unique part of this game is the strange relief found in watching others play it too. From a brain science standpoint, it begs the question of if we like being non-participatory watchers of other people doing tasks.
Games, both mobile and console, have become bigger and (for the most part) better. To experience higher graphics, we demand large file sizes, huge updates, massive servers, expansive worlds, and immersive complex controls. Untitled Goose Game is almost mockingly the exact opposite. From the lack of a (real) name to the simplicity and minimalist approach to a game made in 2019, Untitled Goose Game seems to break every rule these other developers chase. Yet, of all the games that are out there, I find myself wanting to have Untitled Goose Game on more devices, like my phone and iPad, so that I can play it more often.