GoNNER is a roguelike, 2D sidescrolling shooter developed by Art in Heart and published by Raw Fury.
I have never really been a big fan of roguelikes. I’ve played a few and enjoyed some of them, but overall I don’t like the concept of procedurally generated levels and permadeath of the character I’m playing as. GoNNER is another roguelike with these same characteristics, but with a few different additions that have made it an enjoyable and addicting experience.
An Unlikely Friendship Makes an Adorable Premise
GoNNER is about a friendship between Ikk, a whale named Sally, and Death. Ikk, the character you play as, wants to cheer up his friend Sally by obtaining a gift for her that can only be found in the dangerous and dark areas you explore in the game. Death helps Ikk on his journey by supplying him with weapons and abilities.
If I’m being honest, this is the cutest premise of a roguelike I have ever read, however, I wouldn’t have known about it if I hadn’t gone on the game’s official website. The game does not present this through text or elaborate cutscenes; you kinda just spend the beginning of the game walking with Sally until you find your head. It’s a cute story, and it most definitely motivates me to reach the end of the game.
Killer Cute Looks
The art style, character design, and overall presentation of GoNNER is one of my favorite parts of this game. The way the floor and the walls reveal themselves as your character walks near them, and the way enemies explode in a reddish mist as the screen shakes, are a few examples of the unique sense of style that permeates throughout the game. Despite the games gory nature, the enemies and the characters are exceptionally cute. The sounds of the enemies hissing at you as you walk by, or squeaking in pain as you jump on them, further demonstrates the cuteness of these menacing creatures. All of this is accompanied by a soundtrack that sounds great. The music is minimal, yet captures the feeling of every area well. At some points, I got into the rhythm of the music and my gameplay reflected it as I was shooting and jumping to the beat. The presentation of this game is fantastic.|
GoNNER performs without a hitch in either docked or handheld mode. I never once had the game slow down or dip in performance, even in the busiest of rooms. The game looks great on the Switch’s screen and looks even better when docked on a 1080p TV or monitor. The game makes use of the HD Rumble on the Nintendo Switch, but not in a particularly unique way like the rolling in TumbleSeed or the marbles in the box like 1-2-Switch. I was not able to feel a vibration that occurred based on location or direction. It mostly felt like the joy-cons would rumble when the screen shook, or as you gained a bigger combo. It’s a bit disappointing, to say the least, but I’m just glad there’s some use of it.
Jumping and Shooting
There are three important things in GoNNER that make the gameplay unique. Your character is made up of a head, a weapon, and a backpack. Heads are your source of health and affect your movement abilities. Weapons can range from a shotgun with a large spread to a tightly focused laser beam. Backpacks give you added abilities such as being able to spray all your bullets frantically or create a series of explosions around your character. These items are revealed to you as you progress throughout the game. They can also be purchased in vendor rooms that are usually made available to you right before a boss fight. You purchase items in this game with purple collectibles that drop from enemies you defeat. In my experience, the longer/faster your combo, the more of these purple tokens drop for you to collect. You can also use these purple tokens to get a continue if you die, as long as you have enough.
The core gameplay of GoNNER is to clear the room of enemies, or simply make it to the nearest exit. In these procedurally generated areas, there will be plenty of enemies to defeat that will help boost your score and help you earn new items. Once you go through 4 of these rooms, you will face the area’s boss. There are four areas, each with different enemies, items to find, a secret room, and a boss. I was able to make it to the final area in 30 minutes but was not able to defeat the final boss. It took me about four hours of playing to finally be able to reach the final world though, so it’s not like you’ll be able to beat this game on the first try (unless you’re incredibly talented and lucky). The game is relatively short, but that’s not unusual for roguelikes.
I never really felt frustrated with GoNNER’s gameplay. Not once did I think it was unfair, or that I was being placed in absolutely ridiculous scenarios. Some enemies did catch me off guard, especially when you come across them for the first time, but trial and error is part of the appeal of these games. You learn what each head does as you play, and how to best use your weapons and backpack abilities to defeat enemies and bosses. The game feels fair and even allows you to choose exactly what head, weapon, and backpack you want to start off with if you so choose.
My only concern with GoNNER is the fact that you can’t aim freely in all directions. You can only aim right in front of you, similar to original NES Mega Man games. There are many enemies that are slightly out of reach from your regular jump, and defeating them usually requires awkwardly baiting them or wall jumping until they’re in your line of sight. There is a head in the game that allows you to shoot in any direction, but you can’t aim it yourself. You have to jump and wait for the exact moment your character’s body leans in the direction you want to shoot. It would’ve been nice to have the ability to aim up, down, or diagonally, but ultimately it’s not here.
GoNNER is my favorite roguelike of this year. Every time I would turn on my Switch, I would play a few rounds of GoNNER before I played something else. GoNNER is a paradoxically cute yet gruesome roguelike that reveals its gameplay secrets to curious players. GoNNER cleverly presents itself in a way that is challenging to veterans of the roguelike genre, while being fair and fun for newcomers.
GoNNER is available now on the Nintendo eShop for $9.99 for Nintendo Switch.