With challenging games, it can go one of two ways: it can be so unfair that you don't even want to bother, or be tastefully difficult to where it encourages you to keep trying harder. I'm happy to say that GoNNER from Raw Fury Games not only succeeds in the latter, but it does so extremely well. It's an artsy platforming shooter that is littered with challenging gaps and hordes of enemies, so be prepared to die a lot.
The story is where GoNNER gets a bit interesting. The game itself doesn't directly spell anything out for you, so you're left to a few images and subtle clues. You play as a water blob named Ikk who is trying to save his whale friend named Sally from death. You do so by collecting a manner of different equipment to walk through layers of dark foes and caves.
Something to note about the story is that it isn't clear cut. My description above is basically how I interpreted it because it's presented so vaguely. Anybody can go in it and get a different message out of it. I have yet to beat GoNNER, so I don't have the context of the ending (if there is one) to give me any more clues. This will likely turn some people away, but I appreciated this poetic approach. Because the game isn't about the story, I also wasn't worried as to whether it would be good or not.
Now we'll get into the good stuff. At its core, GoNNER is a game focused on how it plays and challenges those daring enough to take it on. Because of its tight platforming and difficult enemies, it made me think of games like Spelunky or Battleblock Theater: two games that aren't very easy.
Once you start in the game, you're given a brief tutorial on which buttons allow you to jump, shoot, and "use." After that, it throws you right into the fray. If you're confused on what to do, that's normal. The game expects you to figure it out as you go, and for those of you that know me, you know that I love this model in video games.
Each level you walk through is procedurally generated, so you'll never quite encounter the same obstacle twice. This style ensures that you're never going to memorize a layout and just go through the motions. You'll always have to be on your toes, analyzing your surroundings to see what the best options are for how to proceed. It's a nice way of keeping one thinking and engaged, and it certainly makes the game last longer.
In terms of how Ikk plays, he's very fluid. You can walk at a brisk pace, shoot with a press of the "X" button, and even climb by jumping on walls. Everything is quick and snappy, meaning that speed runners should have a fine time with this title. The only problem I have with Ikk's controls is that he isn't capable of angling his gun to shoot up or diagonally. You'll only be able to shoot from side to side. What makes this a problem is that sometimes the enemies are placed so awkwardly that you have practically become an acrobat in order to get them in range, which led to a few deaths that I felt weren't earned.
Another part where GoNNER could've fallen flat is loading you with a simple mask, gun, and backpack, then telling you to have fun. That would've lost its charm very quickly. Thankfully, the developers incorporated an equipment system into the game. There are numerous masks, weapons, and packs to find on your journey, and each one of them does something different for Ikk. Your standard backpack gives you extra ammo, while a shark fin allows you to spray and pray without consuming ammo. It's a nice way of enticing players to keep coming back for more.
On the topic of extra equipment, one way of getting them is by beating secret levels. You unlock these by clearing all of the enemies in a certain room in each world (which isn't as easy as it sounds). Then you are transported to a room that's way more difficult to traverse than any normal level. The only secret level I beat was one where I had to jump off of enemies across a big gap. If I screwed up even once, I was taken back to my regular adventure. However, the desire to get better equipment encouraged me to keep trying.
The land of GoNNER is segmented by a few worlds that hold about 5 levels each. At the end of these levels, you will fight a boss that will put your skills to the ultimate test. If you thought the levels were hard, you'd be in for a world of hurt. Each boss takes a different approach in how to test you. One boss could spawn a bunch of bats to fly at you while another one could rain down a barrage of bullets to dodge while fighting it. The thing to understand here is that you will not beat them on your first time through. Players who aren't good at games aren't going to have fun with this as a result.
After you beat each boss, you are transported to a place where Sally the Whale sits. If you walk up to her, she'll reward you with extra hearts, ammo capacity, or a skull that floats with you and collects items. It's a nice way of rejuvenating Ikk so that you don't feel ill-prepared for the next challenge.
Another aspect of GoNNER that I appreciated is the continue system. There are purple glyphs that sometimes drop from enemies. You collect them throughout your run. When you lose all of your hearts, you can spend them to continue right where you left off. In a game as difficult as this, it's a welcome addition. These glyphs can also be used to buy items from a Shopkeeper.
GoNNER also comes loaded with a Daily Challenge Mode, which gives you a different mask, weapon, and pack. It then tests you to see how far you can get in a different set of levels. While this is a fun way of giving the game longevity, there is no Leaderboard system to go with this. While the game tells you it's coming soon, it seems like a function that should've been there from day one.
graphics &amp; audio
GoNNER is a great-looking game. It takes a simplistic art style that is inspired by the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead (Dia De Los Muertos). Everything looks simple yet appropriately creepy and cute all at the same time (even Death himself looks strangely adorable). The colors and scenery will change as you travel through each world, making them all stand out from one another.
Moving gears to audio, GoNNER also accomplishes this very well. The music is deep and weird, but fitting for the style of game. Don't expect any jovial or catchy tunes, because it wouldn't fit the tone.
Where GoNNER really shines is in the sound effects. When Ikk is just a water blob, he'll plop along the floor. Each enemy emits a satisfying sound when it dies. Picking up ammo gives a beautiful little click. And monsters will give off different sounds when they spot you. It's all distinguished enough that you recognize what obstacles lie ahead just by relying on the sound alone (in terms of enemies, that is).
GoNNER is not an easy game. It's tough-as-nails enemies, bosses, and levels will likely turn some people away, as will it's lack of communication about how the game works. However, for the rest of us, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better value on the Nintendo Switch. The random levels and different gear will keep you coming back for weeks after you start the game, and the art style will constantly give your eyes something to gaze at. The mystery of where you'll go next will always linger in the back of your mind, motivating you to try just one more run.
GoNNER is not only one of the best indie games on the Switch, it's one of the best roguelikes out there.
|+ Beautiful art style||– Not all deaths feel earned|
|+ Equipment System||– Some awkward platforming|
|+ Challenging but fair|
|+ Only $10|