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Hello Goodboy – Review

Leave it to indie games to tackle difficult topics in new and interesting ways. Hello Goodboy is a game about anger, loneliness and depression. It’s also one of the brightest and bountiful games I’ve played in the last decade. That sounds like a weird juxtaposition but it totally works because Hello Goodboy uses colour and dogs to describe depression and anger in a way that younger audiences can pick up and understand. It deftly weaves heavy themes with lightness and uplifting outlooks and as a result is a game well worth playing, not just on your own, but with your kids too if you are a parent.

Minigames let you fix items broken by the black dog. They are very simple to clear quick time events with no failure options available.

Playing as Iko, you wake up in a strange world to be greeted by Coco the dog. Yes, you can pet the dog but you can also hug, hi-5 and rest with Coco too, forming a cute and vibrant bond over the game as more interactions becomes available. As the titular Goodboy, Coco explains that you have four doors (one per season) to choose two from to experience life lessons. Each big choice takes sand from your rainbow timer and end the sand runs out, the game moves to its final act. I really liked this unique set up. On my first playthrough I thought I’d have time to see what is behind each door but you can only see two per playthrough. If you want to see the full story, it’ll take a few run-throughs without much cross over and this allows each playthrough to be a tightly woven 2 hours.

Behind each door is a story to uncover. You’ll come across various characters that are struggling with emotions and you can agree to help them or ignore them. Depending on what you do will affect the outcome of your playthrough as being supportive produced joypieces to collect. Whilst each door has an overarching story for that area, you’ll also come across puzzles relating to black gloop. The colour washes out and Iko gets sad. These puddles of black goo and broken items are caused by a black dog that roams the world. You can fix things for joypieces by completing some very simple minigames. You can also help recurring characters, a Goose and Hen who are travelling across the seasons with a new born chick too. It is very cute and wholesome.

Why just pet the dog when you can hug him too <3

Those joypieces you collect ultimately determine your fate as after two stories, you are whisked to the final act where Iko and Coco confront the black dog. It is a lovely tale that shows all the good days you’ve made along the way can help you weather a bad storm and this plays out as a turn based battle. Unfortunately, this is heavily scripted by your previous choices and actions and so whilst the game goes out of its way to scream peril and danger at you, your fate is already determined long before you reach the end game.

Graphically, Hello Goodboy is absolutely beautiful. Flower fields, lush forests, retro playgrounds and winter wonderlands are all hand drawn with a whimsical style. Whilst there is no voice acting, the soundtrack is a bustling synth orchestra that reminds me of tactical RPG’s having a go at a Ghibli soundtrack. There is also an ending credits vocal theme that sums up the games theme nicely too. Hello Goodboy does have puzzles but they are all extremely easy to solve, and the minigames are also short and over in a few seconds. This means the game lives and dies by its narrative. Whilst it nails the overall theme and its wholesome vibe, as it is aimed at younger audiences, sometimes there is a little over explaining going on. Puzzles lead you by the hand, but so does the narrative too. It’s as if being subtle isn’t allowed. I can’t decide if its a good thing to be that explicit and on the nose with a younger audience in mind, but it did make me want to skip a fair few lines of dialogue when things are repeated.

Each story is full of heart and soul and are genuinely uplifting when you choose to help.

Those are small niggles though as Hello Goodboy was a joy to play. It gives an important message in a colourful, upbeat way. Parents should enjoy playing it with their children to learn about how to handle emotions and us adults have a few things to chew on too. Now all that’s missing is a Coco mode that lets me pet and hug Coco at any given location! Definitely… a very goodboy.

Review copy provided by publisher. Out now on Steam.

Hello Goodboy
Final Thoughts
Whilst it leads by the hand a little too much for my personal liking, the narrative and way Hello Goodboy tells it is a wonderfully uplifting piece of storytelling.
Story definitely hits you in the emotional feels multiple times.
Use of colour and sound is fantastic to display and convey a mood.
Plenty of doggo actions for the ultimate tag-team of wholesomeness.
Choices really do matter - you can't see all the game unless you play it multiple times.
It leads by the hand too much, making any puzzle challenges almost redundant.
The final act doesn't quite satisfy the build up to it gameplay wise.

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