Last week, I noticed some Twitter users that I follow voice their praise toward a recently-released Nintendo Switch game called Gonner. It’s been available on Steam since last October, but was made available for the Switch within the past couple of weeks. The game is a rogue-lite 2D platformer with shooting elements, and the art style was interesting enough for me to give it a look. Static images of the game do not do the art justice, so while I will post some pictures here to spruce up this piece, I recommend watching some gameplay of Gonner before passing judgement on the game. It looks good in motion! Anyway, here are my thoughts of the game after the first few hours.
I’m a big fan of randomized levels in video games. Among my favorite games of the past few years are rogue-lites such as Crypt of the Necrodancer and Enter the Gungeon, so when a new game in this genre is shown off, I’ll usually give it a look. Gonner stars a small blob-like creature that collects uniquely-shaped skulls to place on its head. It’s a cute character design that feels at home in the game’s world, despite some dark imagery that pops up during the adventure (one of the merchants between each game is called Death, portrayed as a white cloaked ghost). Every enemy you face against is shaded a crimson red, many of them sporting sharp teeth and a hunger for the player character. The decision to make every enemy the same color keeps the action on screen mostly understandable, so a common coloring scheme is appreciated.
Similar to other rogue-lite titles, Gonner begins with a short tutorial of its core mechanics. There are no words used to describe these abilities, only a diagram of the player’s controller with buttons on the controller highlighted in accordance to certain actions. During the game’s introduction, the actions that can be performed by the player in the beginning are rather simplistic; jump, shoot, reload, wall-jump, and crouch are all that are provided. Upon completion of the tutorial, however, things get a little more interesting, with different weaponry and abilities to play around with.
Different skulls can be collected and equipped by the player to grant them unique abilities, which often aid in hectic combat scenarios. This is also true of the equipment found in the game, which grant the player a tactical edge. Some of these abilities include a time stop for all enemy movement, burst fire from your gun, or an extra jump for those treacherous leaps across chasms. The best part about collecting these items is not the abilities that they provide, but discovering how each of them works. Beyond teaching its basic control scheme, Gonner does not provide the player with an explanation for anything else; that’s up to you to figure out during your adventure. Each of the pick-ups is easily identifiable, and understanding each item’s usage is satisfying. I appreciate when games don’t teach every single mechanic to the player, instead opting to leave things up to experimentation and analysis.
The game’s sound design works well with its dimly-lit levels, opting for music that is a lower volume than most other rogue-lite games. The music that plays is punctuated with the strong sounds of firing bullets at your enemies until they explode, providing more ammunition and currency to use in mid-level shops. Enemies communicate their attack patterns well, and figuring these out to most effectively defeat them is crucial to success. Although it may sound odd at first, my favorite part of each level is at the very end. If every enemy in a level is cleared, the music that played throughout that entire level comes to a halt, with the player’s movement and shooting being the only audible in-game sounds. Each time I clear a room entirely of enemies, I feel a small sense of dread when the game’s music cuts out, almost making me feel like a monster. I don’t know if this is the game’s intent, as I have yet to finish it, but I like the style that is on display so far.
I’m glad I gave Gonner a chance, because the platforming and shooting in this game is very satisfying. Featuring impressive sound mixing and a beautiful art style, I’m looking forward to playing more and seeing what happens during the later levels. If you are into platformers, rogue-lite games, or are just looking for something different on your Switch, definitely give this one a look.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. Please feel free to provide constructive criticism of my writing in the comments below, as I’m always looking to improve. Have a great week, all!