Tag Archives: indie game

Extended Thoughts – GONNER

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

  • Matt
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THOUGHTS ON: Gonner

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

  • Matt