In the 2 weeks since its release, Untitled Goose Game, a stealth/puzzle/goose title published by Portland-based Panic Games, has become something of a big deal. Earning an onstage shout-out from Blink-182, excited tweets from Chrissy Teigen, and a waterfall of memery, the game outsold a Zelda title released on the same date, unexpectedly vaulting to the #1 download on the US Switch store. Not bad for a humble goose.
Evolving out of a bored Slack conversation at Melbourne-based developer team House House—who also designed 2016's bizzaro PS4 puzzler Push Me Pull You—Untitled Goose Game puts players into the webbed feet of a “horrible goose,” loosed upon the orderly idyll of an English village. In 2017, House House released a "pre-alpha" trailer for this simple concept (at one point tentatively titled Some Like it Honk), which was enough to land the game a publisher. Panic cofounder Cabel Sasser—a veteran Portland-based Mac app developer who first dipped their toes into game publishing with 2016's critically acclaimed Firewatch—saw the trailer and sent House House an email simply reading, “Do you need a publisher?” The Portland-Melbourne connection was born.
Every aspect of Untitled Goose Game is about creating avian chaos: tricking the groundskeeper into chasing down his radio and dragging his rake into a pond as he’s distracted, for instance, or chasing a wimpy kid into a phone booth with a mighty honk. The game places its Muppet-like villagers in situations where many things could go wrong, then handing you, the goose, the tools to ensure that they do. (There are walkie-talkies that let you project your honk across entire levels.) The goose itself, with its waddling, flapping and sneaking through gardens, shops and pubs, is never not funny and the developers’ obvious sense of joy shines through every aspect of the game.
“The goose isn't morally righteous. The goose sits outside of human morality. They aren't causing trouble because it's the right thing to do... they're doing it because they're a goose," developer Nico Disseldorp told the BBC in an interview.
The game’s huge success has been a shock to the developers, who in other interviews say they’re too busy on patches and updates to be planning any DLC or a sequel. (PS4 and Xbox One ports are also reportedly in the works.) This writer hopes to soon pilot a Canada goose, tearing through food cart pods with stolen hipster beanies. Until they catch up to their huge success, both House House and their publisher Panic have a lot of work on their hands, just sorting out the memes.