Having been released on PC and Mac in October last year GoNNER now sees its console debut on Nintendo Switch, brought to us by publisher Raw Fury Games and developer Art in Heart. Generally loved by players and critics alike in its original guise GoNNER is a roguelike platformer, consisting of ever-changing, procedurally-generated levels, tight platforming and combat that will make you die again and again as you learn the best way to play. “Ha! It won’t defeat me!”, we hear you cry – oh, how wrong you are.
GoNNER is hard. Seriously hard. The game sees you play as Ikk, a blob-like being with detachable head and accessories, whose goal appears to be showing love and caring for a giant, land-bound whale called Sally. Awesome! To do this, Ikk must travel through several worlds – each with their own theme – defeating monsters, jumping over pitfalls and, most importantly, trying to not die. Dying will send you right back to the start and as previously mentioned, each room Ikk travels through is procedurally-generated, meaning that every time you play the rooms will have a completely different layout. Thanks to this you never know exactly what to expect in terms of where and how many monsters will be waiting for you in the next room, and whether or not it was a good idea to use up all that ammo you just wasted trying to kill a snail. (Trust us, it’ll happen).
Before you jump into this world of doom, you have a quiet moment of down-time with your friend, Death, where you can choose which head, weapon and backpack you wish to equip. As you play through the main game you’ll start to unlock new types of these things, which will then become available for you to select before attempting the game again. Each hat, weapon and backpack have completely different attributes – for example, the Brick Head gives Ikk three health, and allows him to keep hold of his weapon and backpack should he be hit by a monster. The Flame Head, however, gives Ikk two health but makes him immune to explosions. With several different heads, weapons and backpacks (which consist of special abilities such as reloading or rapid-fire attacks) available, there are a number of different play-styles to choose from. Experimenting with different combinations is key, as you’ll soon learn which areas you like and don’t like about each type of ability. These abilities are never explicitly explained to you either, so you’ll have no idea what a new head is going to do for you unless you try it on and work out what’s different.
This is actually a consistent theme throughout the game. At no point whatsoever does it ever tell you what to do, what anything is, or how to cope with that giant bat that just came hurtling towards your scarily-unstable noggin. At first, this leaves you utterly clueless as to what is going on, but with patience and an optimistic approach to learning by error, you’ll soon start to figure things out. In what is possibly the world’s worst segue ever, another consistent thing about this game is the quality of its aesthetics. The worlds are brought alive by great art and sound in a way that screenshots can’t really show. The floors and ceilings of each room only appear to you as you get closer to them and their colour changes depending on the colour of either yourself, or your enemies. This means that as you play, the world seems to move with you. Likewise, the sound effects create a very satisfying experience with each button press as you fire your weapon or even just sift through menus.
The game is relatively short in length from the opening room to the final boss, but this doesn’t mean you’ll complete it quickly. Getting from start to finish is an incredibly difficult task that will require an awful lot of patience, learning and re-tries. Most of your game time will be spent getting used to controls, trying to remember how each different enemy-type moves and perfecting your combat to acquire more glyphs (an in-game currency of sorts that can be used to “continue” should you die or buy new weapons) on each play-through. There are also some hidden rooms to find, other secrets that we won’t spoil for you here and even a daily challenge where each day you are presented with a different, brand new set of procedurally-generated rooms to tackle aside from your main story.
If a list were to be created of games available on Switch that make you say “oh, just one more go” for approximately four hours, this would sit right on top. An addictive, beautifully presented experience that will bring you hours of joy/frustration, GoNNER seems a perfect match for the Nintendo Switch console – offering a gameplay style suited to both quick bursts of play and longer, dedicated sessions.
Possibly too tricky for some players, this game requires a lot of determination, offering little respite - expect to be thrown back to the start countless times as you try to progress. If you’re the type who enjoys a serious challenge we recommend giving this title a go; it is one that will reward those who stick with it the most.