Hi everyone! Yesterday, I went back to read my early impressions of Gonner for the Nintendo Switch, and I did not like the piece that I published. It felt rather rushed and didn’t really provide a compelling argument for why I enjoy the game. Here I’ll attempt to give a more thorough understanding as to what Gonner does right and wrong, and why I’m still hooked on this game. If you want an understanding of the basic premise and mechanics within Gonner, feel free to check out my first post about the game from about a week ago.
Every time I start playing Gonner, I can’t put the game down for at least a solid thirty minutes, if not longer. Every run through this rogue-lite is exciting, and as you progress further in each run of the game, more combat and maneuverability options become available to the player. Certain collectible skulls offer increased or decreased health, depending on the other perks they offer. Jumping, shooting, wall-hopping, and bouncing on enemies’ heads all feels great to do, featuring a sharp level of control while still giving the player a tiny sense of floatiness to their actions. I do feel like the player should be capable of shooting straight upward, as oftentimes there are enemies that fly straight down making it difficult to dodge them in a way that made these fights feel unfair. However, these scenarios are usually avoidable by being especially careful around flying foes. Eventually the player will learn the battle patterns that each enemy possesses and how best to counter their attacks.
Not all weapon and ability combinations work well together, and the player will have to do plenty of experimentation to figure out their preferred play style. An interesting (if sometimes frustrating) mechanic in Gonner is when the player is hurt by an enemy attack, they have to manually pick up their skull, weapon, and ability item back up from the ground. Until they pick these items back up, the player can no longer use their items. This leaves the player at a major disadvantage, and they will quickly learn to anticipate where their items may fall if they take a hit.
A merchant opens up their shop before every boss fight, and gearing up for each battle provides health replenishment and weapon changes at the cost of the in-game currency. That in-game currency is earned in a satisfying manner; not just by killing enemies, but by killing enemies in rapid succession. Every five enemies downed rewards a purple block, and these are used to revive the player and also as shop currency. Remember in my previous post when I said that Gonner teaches very little to the player, besides the basic controls? No? Well, that’s what I briefly mentioned, and it took me several hours of playing to discover that the in-game currency is earned this way. This lack of explanation may perhaps be frustrating to some, but I enjoy discovering game mechanics on my own, so it was fun exploring my options and figuring out how to survive.
I think the biggest praise I can give to Gonner is that its art style is absolutely gorgeous. The game goes for a minimalistic look, with many walls and floors forming around the player as they progress through each area. Enemies, for the most part, appear far ahead to the player’s vision, so they do not often appear instantly and hurt the player, feeling unfair. Each set of levels, after every 3 levels or so, features a certain color pallette, changing to a very different look upon progressing to the next set of levels. With this in mind, I think the art style serves the game quite well. As the player’s kill combo reaches higher from defeating enemies, the in-game music rapidly picks up speed, encouraging even faster progression for the reward of more purple blocks. For new players, they will probably want to focus more on survival than speed, but once I got a feeling for the first few stages, it felt great to fly through and kill as many enemies in quick succession as possible.
Sound and music design is also solid, featuring an abstract tune for each set of levels, fitting the style of play and colors on display. Each shot fired from the player’s ranged weapon gives a satisfying pop, and enemies are blasted away in a smattering of red paste. Combat feels good, and the sound effects from both the weapons and enemies keeps me coming back for more. I do wish that enemies pushed off of ledges into bottomless pits counted toward the score multiplier; as it is now, they simply disappear, offering no extra points for you throwing them off the edge.
If anything that I wrote here sounded intriguing, definitely give this game a look. As of this writing it is available for Nintendo Switch, Windows, and Mac, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t make its way over to PS4 or Xbox One at some point. I’ve only reached the fourth set of levels, but I plan to keep playing and see what the end of the game has to offer.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. Please feel free to provide any criticism, constructive or otherwise, to my writing. I’m always looking to improve. Have a great week!