Despite the promise of its title, 1978’s The Wild Geese wasn’t about waterfowl at all, but rather a war film starring Roger Moore and Richard Burton.
Thankfully, last year’s Untitled Goose Game finally gave this underrated bird the celebrity it deserved; and now, along comes Richard Lems’s Mighty Goose – a run-and-gun action-fest that is inspired by the likes of Contra and Metal Slug, but replaces those games’ muscle-bound heroes with (you guessed it) a feathered bounty hunter who likes to fire guns and ride around in military vehicles.
If the style of the gorgeously outsized explosions and sprite designs dotted around these pages looks familiar to you, that may be because Lems’s work has graced the pages of Wireframe in the past. Last year, he worked with developer TurtleBlaze on its 2D Metroidvania, KUNAI, and was responsible for creating its Game Boy Color-inspired artwork.
Now, though, Lems is going it alone, having set up his own indie studio and committing fully to his debut title. Interestingly, Lems says he came up with his goose character several years ago – so a while before House House unleashed its own obnoxious goose on the world – when he was roughing out ideas in his sketch-book.
Before long, Lems had his concept worked out – that of a combat-ready goose sent out to fight an army of one-eyed humanoids collectively known as the VOID. These blue-clad enemies are heavily armoured and have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of tanks and other sci-fi hardware, but fortunately, our goose isn’t a slouch in the weaponry department, either: the bird’s wings are fitted out with a pair of gigantic cannons, while its robot legs allow it to leap around the screen with ease.
In addition, there’ll be four weapons to pick up, and four vehicles to uncover as you progress through the game’s five stages. “One of my favourite vehicles is the Mono-Bike,” Lems tells us. “It’s a fast-moving ground vehicle which can do agile bunny hops. The player can increase its speed even further by using its boost ability, which sends the bike flying in the current movement direction. It’s just one of those vehicles which is cool and silly at the same time. It totally fits Mighty Goose.”
In line with those run-and-gun games of the past, Mighty Goose will soon ratchet up the challenge. “I’m designing the game to start out easy and ramp-up to ultra-tough as it progresses,” Lems says. “I want it to be tough in a fair way, though. Relying on memorisation rather than skill is something I want to avoid.
“I’d rather draw inspiration from Metal Slug, where every death at least feels like it’s the player’s own fault. Speaking of ultra-tough, the final mission is going to be near impossible. I’m sure there’ll be individuals out there who will still be able to manage [it], but those will be the exception rather than the norm.”
If the idea of a relentlessly tough final stage fills your heart with terror, though, fret not: as well as those weapons and vehicles mentioned above, there’ll also be upgrades and unlockable companions that, Lems says, will help even the odds for the less skilled players out there. “A lot of these are hidden and have to be found first,” Lems explains.
“Through customisation and experimentation, players will be able to make a ‘build’ to tackle the difficult segments of the game in a different way. Some of these upgrades and side characters are intentionally overpowered. Part of the design philosophy in Mighty Goose is that when the player has invested a fixed amount of time in the game, it’s only natural to reward them with the power to break the game. It’s just fun, like a modern version of the cheat codes we used in old games.”
Since Mighty Goose is a solo project, Lems is handling pretty much every side of development by himself – all except the synth soundtrack, which is being handled by Swedish composer Dominic Ninmark, whose work you may have heard on another cracking run-and-gun title, Blazing Chrome. “When working on a game solo, it’s easy to get lost in the details and lose track of the global scope,” says Lems.
“There are days when you’ve worked on a load of stuff, and at the end, you’re like, ‘What have I actually done?’. At the start of development, progress is always fast because everything you add feels like a major step forward. As the game project grows larger, that feeling of a major step forward becomes more rare. Finishing stuff is challenging, the instant gratification is mostly gone. It’s true for most projects, also outside of games.”
Despite all this, Mighty Goose has clearly made considerable progress over the past few months or so – partly because he’s building the game using the Construct 3 engine, which allows him to try out ideas and iterate quickly without getting bogged down in writing line after line of code. “I’m sure it gets frowned on in some circles,” Lems says of the engine. “I’ve seen the term ‘Fisher-Price game engine’ dropped, but I’d say it’s the perfect tool to get any technical barriers out of the way. It allows me to focus on creating rather than technical details.”
Mighty Goose, then, is shaping up to be a bullet-soaked, explosive delight. Its action is zippy and slick (apart from the slowdown that occurs when something huge blows up, which Lems intentionally added for dramatic effect), its pixel artwork packed with character. Here’s hoping the game ruffles a few feathers when it emerges later this year.
Release: TBA 2020