The story of Mighty Goose is a tale as old as time, so stop me if you’ve heard it before. A Goose is born. The Goose finds some futuristic mech armour. Goose dons said mech armour and decides to become an intergalactic bounty hunter. Goose becomes Mighty. This is the delightfully simple and splendidly silly setup for the run and gun 2D shooting of Mighty Goose.
The developers of Mighty Goose, Blastmode Games, clearly love Metal Slug. And who can blame them? Metal Slug is without doubt the king of the run and gun genre. Indeed, for a generation the misadventures of the Regular Army became synonymous with fast and fun arcade shoot ’em up action. If you’ve ever played an entry in SNK’s formidable franchise then just close your eyes and hear the word ‘Shotgun’ spoken in your brain. Chances are it will be said in the same film-trailer-guy voice of Metal Slug’s infamous announcer that I hear.
Mighty Goose is a homage to all things Metal Slug, so much so that it successfully checks off many of the key feature that fans will expect. The action in Mighty Goose is big and bonkers. Enemies pack the screen only to be exploded seconds later in a cathartic orgy of gorgeously animated 2D destruction. Bosses are both massive and mean. There’s a multitude of cute but deadly vehicles to drive. When you walk into a baddie you don’t lose health, you just slap them in the face with an armoured wing. Most importantly of all, when you pick up that Shotgun the announcer proudly declares your new acquisition in a voice that sounds exactly right.
Thankfully, Mighty Goose is much more than a Metal Slug impersonator and has plenty of its own ideas. First and foremost is the eponymous Goose itself, quite probably my favourite video game character of 2021. With a handful of pixels, Blastmode have imbued their hero with more character than can be found in dozens of AAA protagonists. The Goose honks, barrel rolls, dons googles to ride a funky bike and even, when its last life has been lost, has its goose well and truly cooked. Who knew being a Mighty Goose could be such tremendous fun?
Controls are precise and responsive, exactly what is needed to provide the player with a chance to survive the copious on-screen carnage. The Goose also has a few neat powers of its own to make even Marco and Tarma envious. Blast at the ground whilst leaping and Mighty Goose will hover in the air, gliding left and right whilst unleashing rockets, machine gun bullets and shotgun blasts to maintain its impromptu flight. This ability is put to the test with some gleefully devious enemy combinations that will push any gamer’s skills. The player is constantly forced to switch between fighting on the ground and going aerial to keep the hordes of enemies at bay.
The Goose also has a Mighty Mode meter that can be filled by building up a combo. Once that’s filled, a quick squeeze of the controller’s triggers will spurt hellish flames from the Gooses’ head, activating a full on god mode for a moment or two. Careful combo preservation is a must to ensure this attack is available to see you through some tough showdowns.
There’s further neat twists to the Metal Slug formula. Mighty Goose can be choose from a variety of power-ups and additional abilities at the start of a level. These are a nice addition and prove vital to making progress through the game’s particularly challenging New Game Plus. There’s various buffs that can be applied, such as weapons blasts dealing more damage or adding a few more seconds to god-mode, as well as more interesting additions, such as the ability to summon hordes of skeletons to aid Goose or blast foes from afar with enormous pillars of burning flame. I was delighted by the range of options and how levels demanded you change up your preferred loadout in order to achieve a top score.
Likely the biggest addition to the standard run and gun tropes is the inclusion of sidekicks. These AI controlled bots accompany Goose and do their best to help out. Whilst some are throwaway – Regular Duck, I’m looking at you – others prove vital. An ammo throwing Pig can prove the difference between making it past a boss or not, whilst the rocket shooting one-wheeled robot proved intrinsic to later play.
Now, Mighty Goose is tricky, but that’s not to say that BlastMode Games haven’t made some canny design choices to make it accessible. On-screen visual effects, such as slow-mo and the occasional honking of a giant goose’s head, can be removed to help provide a clearer view of the action. Then there’s the in-game currency. Collect enough coins during a level and Goose can use a mobile phone app to call in weapon and vehicle drops – a very welcome addition to ease the challenge of a particularly taxing boss. It’s just a shame the checkpoints can be uneven and punishing. Sure, that’s keeping it old school, but the fact that some levels have plentiful checkpoints while others are so stingy is unnecessarily frustrating.
There’s also a lacklustre co-op mode that dampened much of my enthusiasm for the game. If any genre is required local play, then its 2D run ‘n guns. Sadly in Mighty Goose, whilst you can have a pal join the fun, the second player is restricted to being a sidekick rather than a second goose. Sidekicks are underpowered to play as and also invincible, removing any sense of tension or excitement from the gameplay. It’s a missed opportunity for there to be no decent co-op mode available, and hopefully something Blastmode see fit to rectify soon.