Game Review #307: GoNNER (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Allan Jenks
Developer: Art In Heart
Publisher: Raw Fury
Category: Action, Adventure, Platformer, Roguelite
Release Date: 6.29.2019
Price (at time of review): $9.99
Buy GoNNER from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
What’s That Genre Again?
I have heard arguments regarding the true definition of a roguelike and a roguelite, and whether game X should fall into one or the other—or either. I think the game I will be discussing falls into the category of roguelite, as it does not appear to meet ALL of the criteria for a roguelike, which includes permadeath, random level generation, and turn-based combat. The random level generation is definitely there, and there’s sort of a shade of permadeath, as you do lose all of your progress and start from the beginning each time you die, but if you make it far enough to get to a shop and buy an item like a weapon or a head—yes, you get to choose different heads to wear, and you are a drop of water—you still get to keep those items for use in your next go-around. As for the combat, it is not turn-based, just some good old-fashioned action platforming with guns and head-jumps. So, I think that GoNNER is considered a roguelite, but I just don’t know. I’ll tell you what it definitely is though, and that’s fun! Let’s talk a little more about this creepy little possible-roguelite adventure.
Whatever It’s Called, I Like It!
So, as far as the roguelike/roguelite genres go, I’m not really very experienced with them. I have always had problems with the random stage/level generation aspect, because I have this OCD thing where I like to memorize levels and know what to expect, and these type of games are never the same playthrough ever—though there is a slight exception to that statement with one of the modes of GoNNER, but I’ll talk more on that later—and this just messes with my head for some reason; but this game has grown on me, and is making me find a new appreciation for this genre.
As far as the basic gameplay, GoNNER is a 2-D action platformer where you play a drop of water who wears different skulls as a head—each one granting different abilities ranging from triple-jumps to floating capabilities and more—and carries different types of weapons, from shotguns to lasers and even a scythe. Once you drop in to the stage, you traverse the procedurally-generated level and attempt to kill as many enemies as you can to collect more ammo and little purple square blocks, which equate to in-game currency for when you make it to a shop. The goal is basically to stay alive as long as possible and clear as many levels of enemies as you can by either shooting them or jumping on their heads—though it is not a requirement to clear the screen of all enemies in order to move on to the next one, but there are more points and goodies in it for you if you do!
Personally, I have not gotten as far as I have seen others get in gameplay footage, but I get a little better every time I play, which has become a daily ritual. One of the cool things about this game is the Daily Challenge, which is a new and randomly generated stage for you to play each day and compete for the high score in the online leaderboards. Each daily challenge is the same stage no matter how many times you try it that day, but it changes at the end of the challenge each day, allowing for at least a little bit of memorization of stages to happen—that exception I mentioned earlier.
A Little Further Each Day
Each day you get a different skull, weapon, and ammo bag to use in your daily challenge, which also allows you to try out some different gear that you may not have unlocked yet. This really makes the fact that I die too soon way too often in this game a little more bearable! My daily ritual has become playing through the daily challenge, then playing the regular mode with a new design each time I die. I usually only play this game for about 10-20 minutes at a time, but I can just as easily sink a couple of hours into a sitting if I get in the zone with it.
I mentioned the shop a couple of times already, and just to elaborate on that a little bit, once you reach a certain point in the game, you will enter a room with a giant Hodor-looking figure standing in front of some crates with weapons, skulls, and ammo bags over them. You can purchase the items with your in-game currency, and even though you have to start from scratch each time you die, you will retain these purchased items and be able to equip them before beginning a fresh run.
I like this feature, because sometimes you have a good run and get really far, but sometimes, you just strike out—which, for me, is more often the latter than the former—and being able to visit death after dying and choose a new skull or weapon you previously unlocked instead of just getting the new game default equipment is quite helpful, and makes me feel like I am still working towards something whenever I am playing.
Audio & Video
The visual style of GoNNER is very unique, as most of the details are left out in favor of a more silhouette-style art. The majority of the time, it is very dark and eerie, favoring a black and red color scheme, though the game does change it up for you a little bit from time to time—especially in the Daily Challenge, where I have seen the biggest variety of schemes. The entire screen is not illuminated at once, and instead, a radius of light follows your character as they move through the stage, illuminating a certain distance in all directions around you. You can, however, still see the enemies that are anywhere on screen, regardless of distance from you.
The soundtrack is extremely well-fitted to the overall mood and atmosphere of the game. It is mostly just ambient noise and creepy, wet-sounding horror movie sound effects. I was playing the game in bed on the TV one night after my wife had fallen asleep, and she woke up freaked out from the sound effects and asked me to turn the sound off. I’d say that if creepy was what the developers were going for, they have definitely done a good job at it!
So, while I am far from the best player of this game, and I die quite frequently with a whopping final score of 0—and according to the leaderboards, I am definitely not alone—I still thoroughly enjoy GoNNER for what it is; and I appreciate when a difficult game is still fun to lose at. If you are a fan of 2-D platformers, roguelites—whatever that means to you—and might be a slight glutton for punishment like myself, then this game is probably something you will enjoy. I would certainly recommend giving it a try!
Buy GoNNER from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Raw Fury