GoNNER is a somewhat-roguelike action platformer with a sumptuously gorgeous aesthetic. It’s also pretty hard — I’m not really very good at platformers or side-scrolling games in general — so I’ve not yet got beyond world two. I believe it’s a fairly short game but I wouldn’t know for sure because I keep dying. But having a lot of fun doing so.
I love it when games don’t explain too much — when they leave things mysterious and provide you with the means to figure stuff out yourself. GoNNER doesn’t tell you what anything in it is, but does an excellent job through its visual and kinetic language of allowing you to work out what things are and what they do. You start the game without a head and your first job is to find one — I’m still not entirely clear on what the effects of the different heads are but I’ve noticed that they change things, I’m keeping it intentionally vague; I don’t want to spoil your joy of discovery should you decide to play this.
It’s a beautiful game — the levels and characters look stunning, the animations are fluid and communicative and the music augments the rest perfectly.
Each world has its own style of level — those in world one are enclosed, with lots of walls to jump around on, while world two’s levels are all open skies and perilous drops. The level draws around you pleasingly as you move, representing your field of view, in one of this game’s nods to the roguelike form. Other nods include somewhat procedural levels — each world will always have the same levels in the same order but they look different each time, things are moved around and re-jigged for each run; there’s no saving — dying means starting over from the beinning and there are various weapons, heads and accessories (each of which enables a different special move) to find. These pickups are saved between runs — at the start of each game you can choose to visit death where you can select from the heads, weapons and accessories you’ve discovered so far.
I don’t know, yet, why I can change my heads. I don’t know why I seem to be quite pally with death and my best friend seems to be a whale. Nor do I know why I start each level being shat out by a giant worm and end each level by jumping into the worm’s mouth. The symbolism is lovely and esoteric, I’m enjoying soaking it up and coming up with ideas.
The levels are like little playgorunds and, with a little practise, you’re bounding around, stringing together jumps, wall-jumps and double jumps to pull off improbable acrobatic feats of violence as you kill enemies with gunshots and head-jumps. The controls are pleasantly responsive and everything has a nice physical feel to it — the shotgun, my preferred weapon so far, flings you backwards a little when used, for example, which can be deadly or useful, depending on your skill.
GoNNER’s design is elegant in its simplicity — there’s no waste, nothing extraneous, no distraction — everything on-screen communicates something. Enemies and environments are varied but readable and motion and actions are explicit such that, when you die (and you will, a lot), it’s always your fault. It’s deliciously frustratingly fair.
I can’t but recommend GoNNER, £6.99 is a steal for such a beautiful, smart, satisfying little game.
My only caveat is that there’s currently no v-sync option. It doesn’t tear, for me at least, I just get more frames than I need. I’m sure this will be fixed in a future update.
Here’s the launch trailer because you really have to see it moving.