When the trailer for Untitled Goose Game dropped however long ago, it created quite a storm.
"It's a lovely morning in the village... and you are a horrible goose" we were told, and it was perfect.
We all wanted that game. We all wanted to be that goose.
Because somehow we do think of geese as horrible don't we? The trailer spoke to something primal within all of us. Geese live without consequences. They don't have to pay taxes. They don't have to worry about upsetting someone. They do what they want, when they want.
And somehow we just know that all geese are massive dickheads, and couldn't care less who knows it. I mean, they honk, for pity's sake. What use is honking other than to startle people? That's why car horns honk. They don't trill or chirp. Honking is an aggressive noise, and geese must surely have been given the ability to honk because they are intended to be nature's arseholes.
Don't we all, on some level, want to live the goose life?
Well now we can.
Untitled Goose Game isn't entirely what I was expecting... and yet, it also is. It's easier to fit it into a genre box than I'd thought: it's a stealth game. Stealth games are, essentially, puzzle games - where there's usually more than one solution to a puzzle.
And it is thus here; it's like the sneaky bits in Metal Gear Solid or Hitman, although the game doesn't end when you get rumbled. You'll just be chased off, and have to repeat the steps of your "mission".
Your mission? In UGG, as you move from area to area in a quiet, pretty, village, you're given a list of objectives that usually require you to terrorise the residents in some way; stealing their belongings, breaking their belongings, making them look like idiots...
I'd been braced for something far more chaotically open world-ish, like Goat Simulator, but Untitled Goose Game is all the better for having a semblance of structure.
The first "level" does a good job of introducing you to the concept, as you steal a garderner's lunch, throw his rake in a lake, soak him in water (in the manner of your choosing), and honk at him at just the right moment while he's putting up a "NO GEESE" sign, so that he hammers his thumb.
The challenge comes from needing to outwit the villagers, who'll search for their missing things, shoo you away, or engage in a tug-of-war over their belongings. Some of the objectives are pretty simple - steal stuff - while others require a degree of oblique planning, setting off a kind of chain reaction of consequences.
How do you lure somebody away from the item you need? How do you force a boy to wear the wrong pair of glasses? How do you break a dartboard? That's the sort of lateral thinking required, and the sandbox-style world allows you to interact with all sorts of items that could, possibly, set off the domino effect that you need.
The good news about Untitled Goose Game is that it is often very funny without ever trying too hard to be funny. The simple, stylised, visuals manage to convey a surprising amount of emotion among the villagers - ranging from confusion to fear - and the goose itself is beautifully convincing. That, given the response to the original trailer, is what most of us wanted from it.
Given that you can't die, and you can't fail your mission - just have it thwarted repeatedly - there is a gentle pace, where you can experiment, and try different things.
The bad news is... the ideas almost run out of steam before the end. Your goals do start to become very same-y, and there's only so many times you can slowly drag something to a place while avoiding a person, before it starts to test patience.
What also wears somewhat thin before the end is the novelty. While there has never been a game like this before, aesthetically-speaking... beneath its goose-y trappings, it really is fairly tried-and-tested formula. Fortunately, it never tries too hard to be wacky, and it's a short enough game that - even if it does start to repeat itself - nothing really outstays its welcome.
It's worth noting, however, that even if you're a fan of the idea of a game in which you play a horrible goose, and were won over by that trailer, your engagement is going to depend upon whether stealth is your thing. Often, solving a puzzle is less logic, and more trial-and-error, in a kind of classic point-and-click adventure way.
It's rarely less than satisfying - though sometimes simply a relief - when your behaviour leads to another objective being crossed off... and when that leads to a new area opening up.
If you prefer games with a little more action, a little more adrenaline, then this isn't for you. If you've always wanted to be a goose behaving like a dick, then this is your dream come true.
OVERALL: Honk honk honk out of honk honk honk honk honk.