GoNNER is a roguelike 2D platformer made up of procedurally generated levels. Players take control of Ikk, a misunderstood individual who wants to cheer up his only friend; a giant landbound whale named Sally.
The first thing to mention about GoNNER is this: it’s incredibly difficult. It’s not for the faint of heart. If you’re a fan of Mario and an easy run, GoNNER is not for you. It’s been deliberately designed this way. Not to be frustrating, but to challenge the player. It’s not your average pick-up-and-play title but something you work hard with to reap the benefits.
GoNNER is presented in a very stylised manner. With a dark background and a brighter foreground of walkways and enemies. Entities can usually be seen on screen at all times whereas the level fades in and out as you move almost as if an invisible hand is continually drawing and erasing the level in front and behind you; it’s always there but you just can’t see it. At first, I found this to be peculiar, unnerving and a little out of sorts. It added a sense of uncertainty and urged me to move slowly, but the more I played GoNNER I began to feel that it was more of a way to challenge the player. Forcing them to think on the fly, after all, it’s easy to plan your attack if you can see the lay of the land. It’s not just a case of holding the left stick to the right and hoping for the best, there are monsters – flying and bipedal – blocking the way forward, which attack if Ikk gets to near.
As Ikk progresses through each level the number of enemies on screen increase. Defeating enemies rewards the player with points that are added up once Ikk meets his inevitable demise. Ikk can collect a number of projectile weapons as well as other body parts to add abilities, such as a shotgun type weapon – which is my particular favourite – or a shark fin instead of a backpack; which instead of reloading Ikk’s weapon it fires everything in a rapid fire manner.
Defeating enemies will sometimes reward the player with a purple tile. Collecting these allows Ikk to trade them in certain areas for other upgrades. From different heads to different guns, each situation benefits from each item, it’s up to the player to make the most of each item and to decide when is best to utilise the alternative firepower.
GoNNER spans a total of five worlds, each with their own theme and boss at the end. The gameplay doesn’t tend to vary much through out, though the difficulty curve is more of a verticle line. At least, that’s how it felt to me. Though with this in mind I quite enjoyed the challenge. Games today are far too afraid of offering their players a difficult ride and tend to offer the hand-held approach with save points and restarts. GoNNER is unforgiving and certainly does not hold your hand.
The control scheme of GoNNER is fairly simple but feels a little odd to me. The B button acts as the use/reload button, A to jump and X to fire your weapons.It’s easy enough to get the hang of, but for some reason, I just can’t get used to the fire button being X. I’m forever hitting the jump button instead of opening fire on Ikk’s enemies. To some, this may not seem like a big issue and realistically it’s not but it would be nice to be able to customise the controls to one’s own liking. A minor gripe and by no means a game changer. With that being said, however, the controls are nice and tight and respond well. The only issues I really had were human input error.
GoNNER is a simple idea that’s presented in a unique way and takes the idea that video games should be easy and turns it on its head. It’s a visual delight and enjoyable to play and can be completed within 30 to 40 minutes if you’re especially gifted at gaming. But that’s not to say you won’t go back to play again and again. While it won’t appeal to everyone, it’s certainly worth giving a go.