No-ing is half the battle
I’m pretty sure that Untitled Goose Game might’ve inspired the next generation of full blown comedic games. While comedy in general is hard to do, what’s even harder is making a game where a player can feel in control of the comedic timing. Say No! More is definitely trying to balance out its take on work culture with both absurdity and sincerity. While the game did make me chuckle a few times, the comedy is stuck between the player’s agency and the premise of the game.
Say No! More has a very straightforward premise. You’ve recently acquired an (presumably unpaid) internship at a large company. On that same day, your best friend asks you once again to pay his rent for him because he is having such a hard time finding work himself. As a form of friendship and good luck, he gives you a nice lunchbox for the first day at work. The job itself is harsh and unforgiving. Supervisors run amok, co-workers ask the most menial tasks of you like making copies and getting them coffee and your co-interns are all too eager to please their new bosses. This reaches an all time low when your lunchbox is taken by your supervisor because he forgot his lunch. The intern is ready to fall into a rut of saying yes all the time, until he finds a walkman with a workout tape that learns him how to say a magic word that changes their life. Armed with the power of the word, no, you set out on a journey to tell your colleagues off and claim back your lunchbox. Surprisingly, there are a few genuine twists along the way that made me more invested into the story.
From a presentation standpoint the game has a very colorful polygonal look to it. While I wouldn’t claim it looks like a N64-game, it’s retro aesthetic and style really sets it apart from other story driven games. The voice-acting is pretty good across the board. There’s a rather extensive character creator where you can even select from a variety of languages to shout your ‘No’ from. Given my background, I went with the very sharp “Nee” in the Dutch language. As you travel around the office you come across all sorts of unique settings and places that each make up one of the several chapters in the game. Unfortunately, while the style and stages have quite a bit of variety, the gameplay is where things slow down.
The best way to describe the gameplay is like an on-rails shooter, but instead of bullets you fire off your “no’s” to demanding, disapproving and annoying colleagues. There's no aiming, but you do have full control of the timing for your no's. There’s several types of no you unlock along the way like a cold no or even a lazy no. These don’t have any specific advantages but do help with the variety. There are also ways to disarm aggressive co-workers by nodding sarcastically or applauding halfway through their monologue, surprising them before you can blow them away with a no. Unfortunately the gameplay is very repetitive. You can hear co-workers out before declining their request with a no, but most of the time I just shouted no before they could say a thing. It took me quite a few chapters before I realized that the timer used in the dialogue is really there to indicate a good cut-off point where to shout your no. But there’s no reward for saying no at the right time or refusing to say no to the right people. There are no ‘hidden paths’ or bonuses to obtain. Really all you’re doing is following along with the story while training yourself to not take any bullshit from others and learning to say no.
That’s unfortunately where Say No! More falls flat. You are just along on this ride for the story without any actual agency. There’s no clear indication when you make a mistake or say No to the wrong people. There are little consequences for your actions, meaning that there is little to no replayability to this title. The comedy is well written, especially when there’s a few twists later on, but the game never reaches the potential that it could have had. Because you are stuck on a track, the no’s don’t feel like something that you build up genuine anger over. Most co-workers are reduced to mere obstacles to be blown away by your no’s, instead of you figuring out a way to really make them feel why you are saying no to them. Untitled Goose Game was not just funny because you play as an annoying Goose, the comedy comes from the player, deciding how and when to obstruct the NPC’s. You have full control and agency over the comedy in Untitled Goose Game, whereas Say No! More has the comedic premise, but leaves control up to the developer. I do have to say that this doesn’t undermine the story and the conclusion is really well done. The game does make it pretty obvious that it is pro-workers and that is something I have rarely seen in a game.
As much comedic potential as Say No! More has, it feels like it only scratches the surface of what is possible within this specific setting and world. The levels are pretty repetitive and lack a lot of player agency. While the style, atmosphere, themes and story are very good I don’t think I will return to Say No! More in the future. Not because I think I shouldn’t say no more, if anything this game made me realize that I do say yes too many times in my life, but because like a good self-help book, the real change begins when you’re finished reading the story.