House House's adorable sandbox puzzler is a game for the whole family to enjoy.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Untitled Goose Game is that its brilliance comes as no surprise. After first taking note of House House's quaint little puzzle-adventure we knew it had the potential to be great fun, and so the biggest question mark was over whether or not the studio would deliver on the undoubted promise displayed in the demos we'd seen in the months previous. Using your powers of deduction you'll have realised by now that the title's inclusion in our game of the year reckoning indicates that we think House House did a good job. Nay, we think the studio did an astonishing job, and Untitled Goose Game was one of our favourite games of the whole year.
The premise is delightfully simple. You are a goose. A naughty goose, for that matter. You live near a sleepy rural village somewhere in England and it would appear that your job is to annoy and frustrate the locals at every available opportunity. This is done by stealing or moving items found in the world, dodging the attention of the villagers, and generally being a nuisance whenever the opportunity arises.
The art style is simple and effective, and the aesthetic works well with the isometric camera employed by House House. The whole thing is understated yet charming, and while there's not a huge amount of detail to behold, there's just enough in each environment to keep things feeling authentic. Visually, it's just fine, although our overall impression of the game is improved immeasurably by the charming music by Dan Golding, who took Debussy's Preludes and turned it into a reactive soundtrack that accompanied the player throughout, responding to player actions in a playful way that accentuated the innocent atmosphere of the whole affair.
The village itself isn't very big and it doesn't take long to play through the game and then tackle the additional challenges that unlock upon completion, and you could reasonably ask for more, however, the succinct nature of the campaign felt entirely natural to us. It's just the right length for speedruns and player-made challenges, and the focused sandbox level design and the way each area is linked ensures that progression feels natural and well-earned. You'll waddle between scenes, pestering the people you discover until you've finished sowing seeds of chaos.
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The goose itself is a charming little critter, and we loved waddling about and honking at the locals. They didn't seem so pleased, but their outrage prompted hilarity at every turn. What's best of all, is the family-friendly nature of the theme and the effortlessly accessible controls make Untitled Goose Game a game for all the family, and after we'd let the kids loose the house was filled with the sound of happy laughter (and the odd maniacal cackle). Again, the succinct campaign ensures that everyone who plays should be able to get through until the end, and even the more challenging puzzle elements can easily be overcome with the help of a parent.
Untitled Goose Game did a rare thing this year when it entertained players of all ages in equal measure. The wonderful audio-visual design brilliantly complemented the theme and the level design to create one of the most charming video games of recent memory. You might argue that it's too short, but we see upsides to the game's compact structure, and even simply playing around in the sandbox without following your list of things to do is plenty of fun.
In a word full of angry, violent video games, Untitled Goose Game showed us that not everything has to be settled by a gun or even by a few kind words. Sometimes it's ok to just have fun, to revel in the act of play, to reacquaint yourself with your inner child or maybe even connect with your own kids. House House gave us some of our favourite moments of 2019, and that's why it's one of our games of the year.