Let loose the Goose of war.
Videogames where the player takes control of an animal are not a new concept. Whether it's gliding through the sky in games like Eagle Flight, stalking through the streets of Japan in Tokyo Jungle, wreaking ragdoll havoc in Goat Simulator, or sprinting across open fields while leaving a trail of gorgeous flowers behind you in my all-time favourite game, Okami, animal games feature in almost every genre. Even triple-A titles like Sonic the Hedgehog and Crash Bandicoot are widely popular series where the player assumes the role of an animal.
Then, in 2019, a small Australian developer named House House released an animal-themed videogame that absolutely took the world by storm. With a cheeky waddle, a startling honk, and wily waterfowl antics, it was an experience that stole the hearts of gamers much like its feathered protagonist stole a town bell. I'm talking about none other than Untitled Goose Game. The quintessential example of an animal game; this perfectly captured the distinct traits of a goose and allowed players to wreak havoc upon a quaint English village. However, after playing it, this got me thinking: why aren't there more games where you play as a goose?
Well, my question has been answered above and beyond all expectations thanks to the other goose game: Mighty Goose (available on PS4/PS5, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch). This brand new indie run n' gun title developed by Blastmode, is not only a guns-blazing game where you play as a bounty-hunting space goose, but it's the closest experience to Metal Slug outside of the classic arcade series. Considering Metal Slug has been as good as dead with its last main release now over 10 years old, a massive tank-shaped hole has been left in my heart. But you know what? This game just shoved a goose right into it.
So how exactly is a goose similar to a slug? You're about to find out.
You are the galaxy's number one bounty hunter. Samus Aran? Not quite. Defending the universe and thwarting evil is no easy task, and that's why you play as the only one who can get the job done: the Mighty Goose. In a chubby goose-shaped space craft and a drop pod resembling a goose egg, no mission is too dangerous for this brave hero. The story is delivered through short snippets of dialogue between characters (and the occasional honk from the protagonist), but the main goal is to take down an Interstellar Flying Fortress known as KOLOS and the king who controls it.
With the aid of his companion, Regular Duck, this daring goose must explore treacherous landscapes, rescue valuable allies, and form a team capable of taking down the evil Void King and any foe that stands in your way. At times the story is quite amusing, but this is by no means a game you'll be playing for its deep narrative.
This is where the goose is at its mightiest. This is the ideal example of snappy, responsive, satisfying run n' gun gameplay. If you've ever played a Metal Slug game, you'll feel right at home with what's on offer in Mighty Goose. You'll be blasting hordes of enemies with a barrage of bullets and piloting overpowered armaments through 9 different levels, and fans of the genre are likely to love every single minute.
Simple controls and a mild level of difficulty make this gameplay easily approachable even for those completely unfamiliar with the genre. Exploring each level lasts approximately 10 - 15 minutes and features a mixture of platforming combined with hectic onslaughts of enemies. Power-ups are plentiful, which are dispersed throughout each level and provide new weaponry (machine guns, rockets, lasers) or vehicles that can be piloted for extra fire-power. The game also features a Mighty Meter that charges up during combat and can be activated once full. Mighty Mode unleashes the sheer fury of the goose, making the player will become invincible for a short period of time and upgrading the current weapon to quickly decimate all enemies on screen.
Progressing through the game will unlock optional upgrades that can be equipped in the armory after each mission. These include secondary weapons (reflector honks, chonker bombs etc.), new companions to assist you during missions, and abilities like double jumps or extra ammo. Using these wisely will make combat dramatically easier, and once you become comfortable with these additional skills, you'll be chewing through enemies quicker than a duck chews through a piece of bread.
The game is certainly at its most thrilling during the massive bosses, which quite literally allow every level to go out with a bang. Seasoned players will be able to beat these with minimal challenge, but they're each incredibly enjoyable, frantic and fast-paced fights packed with explosions. Activating the Mighty Mode at the perfect time and blasting through the boss' health bar is incredibly satisfying and leaves every level on a high.
Equal parts comical and epic, Mighty Goose features a stylish and detailed pixel art with vibrant colours, exceptional attention-to-detail, smooth animations, and explosions aplenty. It's an absolute pleasure to look at, and the design of each level and boss is distinct and stands out from the rest. UI and menus also have an aesthetic not unlike an arcade game, and the entire visual feel of the game takes clear inspiration from the likes of Metal Slug while applying its own unique goose-themed aesthetic.
Slow-motion sequences will randomly trigger during intense battles, and the occasional massive goose head (pictured above) will launch across the screen with an echoing honk. Visual touches like this certainly add an amusing style to the already attractive experience. Having played the game in 50% handheld and 50% docked mode, it performs exceptionally on each and the visuals work incredibly well both on the small and large screen.
As stylish as its visuals is the game's pumping synth soundtrack. Composed by Dominic Ninmark, who has created soundtracks for several other indie games, his music is a delicious side dish to accompany this main course of goose. Most of the tracks feel as if they've been plucked from an '80s action movie and then compressed into an arcade machine. They're high-tempo, catchy, and fit the arcade style gameplay perfectly. At times it even feels like you're listening to songs that might have been featured in Kung Fury - that's a massive plus for me.
Albeit short, with 100% completion possible in as little as 3-4 hours, Mighty Goose offers a thrilling experience with joyous gameplay in a succinct, action-packed adventure. You don't have to be a dedicated run 'n gun fan to enjoy the game, as difficulty is forgiving and simple enough for anyone to easily pick up and play. However, if you are a run 'n gun fanatic, this game is a must-play and will likely have you grinning ear-to-ear with subtle (and not so subtle) references to the iconic series that inspired it. My only criticism is that extra content is lacking - multiplayer (which would have been perfect!) is lacking completely, and once you've completed all the levels there is little incentive to keep playing.
So, why should you play it?
Are you a fan of Metal Slug? Then this is a no-brainer.
Wanting to try out a run 'n gun game? This would be a great place to start.
You're after a short, punchy action game that's just plain fun.
Gorgeous pixel art and design.
But why shouldn't you play it?
No multiplayer and you'd rather play a game like this with friends.
You prefer games that offer endless hours of gameplay.
A review code for Nintendo Switch was provided for the purpose of this review. Some footage included is from the Xbox One version of the game.
Ben 'Qualbert' Schuster
Ben is a game reviewer and collector with a passion for the Australian games industry. His favourite game is Ōkami and he spends most of his time playing JRPGs and indie games. You can read more of his reviews and retrospective articles at qualbert.com