For Whom the Goose Honks

Untitled Goose Game is a release on PC and Switch (the Nintendo Switch version is the one reviewed here) which generated a ton of buzz from early trailer footage, which combined an endearing animation style with a delightfully simple premise: “It’s a lovely morning in the village, and you are a horrible goose.”

As a goose your activities are limited to waddling about at various levels of speed and sneakiness, gracefully swimming on water, waving your wings about and going “honk”. With these limited capabilities, you are set loose in a charming English village divided into a number of zones – the allotments where a gardener toils away growing vegetables, the village market square, a pair of neighbouring back gardens, the local pub and the skillfully-executed model village – each of which has an associated task list. Complete more tasks, access more of the map, make more mischief; it’s that simple.

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Bricking It On the Go

There’s some types of videogames which struggle to make a transition to a handheld format and some where, once they make the leap, feel like it’s almost their natural home. I’d include traditional, old-school platform games like the 2D Mario games in the latter category. Their clear, cartoonish graphics translate to smaller screens nicely, the gameplay is simple enough to not require particularly complex controls whilst having enough wrinkles to stay challenging, whilst at the same time the level structure means you can pick up or put down the game at a moment’s notice.

All this makes it rather weird why it took so long to get the handheld versions of the Super Mario Maker games right. The full-fat console versions (released on the Wii U for the first game and the Switch for the second game) provided a nice system for designing homebrew Mario levels based on the gameplay and physics of several different Mario games (Super Mario Bros.Super Mario Bros. 3Super Mario WorldNew Super Mario Bros. U), publish them to the Internet, and download and play other people’s levels. Should be simple, right?

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Eternal Mediocrity: Sanity’s Bronze Medal Winner

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

It feels really strange to be playing a survival horror game on a Nintendo console, because I grew up in an era when consoles were marketed to kids. Nintendo built their reputation on being family-friendly, Sega built theirs on appearing to be a bit older and edgier than that to kids whilst actually being no more objectionable than Nintendo were; he might have worn trainers and had a nebulously-defined “attitude”, but ultimately there was nothing to Sonic which was any less kid-safe than Mario. Once Nintendo and Sega had managed to split the market neatly between them for a while things started to feel a little stagnant; I drifted away to PC gaming, whilst on the console scene Sony realised that there was a market for a console which wasn’t afraid to show a little blood and utter a few four-letter words. Sega asphyxiated under a large pile of bad decisions, whilst Nintendo had the indignity of seeing the Gamecube bumped into third place in the console wars after the PS2 and the original XBox.

Of course, a while later Nintendo made its family-friendly image pay off again in the form of the Wii, a console you wouldn’t be ashamed to play on with your kids or your mum. But Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem came out in 2002; Nintendo’s machines were seen as kid’s toys in an era in which people in their later teens and early twenties were seen as being the primary market for console games. Games like Eternal Darkness were meant to change that – to prove that the Gamecube wasn’t just good for the latest Mario and Zelda games – and whilst it wasn’t a huge commercial success it’s received nigh-universal critical praise.

It doesn’t quite deserve that praise.

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