GoNNER, where The Binding of Isaac meets Spelunky in a vague world filled with all kinds of baddies. The game is self proclaimed as a challenging roguelike, and that’s where it doesn’t miss a single beat. From the dozens of enemies on-screen, bullets flying everywhere, and vibrant colors throbbing on your screen, GoNNER is worth every cent.
With games like The Binding of Isaac that create a certain threshold needed to be met in order for other games to be as good, GoNNER enters with the world already against it. There are other games out there that already do the same things as this game, and they have been out for much longer with established fan bases. So, the question is this: Why play GoNNER when I could play something else? Well, the answer to that is simple, really. GoNNER is the most fun I’ve had playing a game in months, primarily due to my strives to beat it.
When players first start up GoNNER, they will notice right off the bat that the game doesn’t offer much in terms of guiding you where to go. On keyboard and mouse, there is no definitive button that fires, so navigating this is already a challenge. It never tells you how to equip items, it never once tells you why you will soon be firing your way through endless waves of minions, and it certainly never alludes to what may be at the end of your journey. This is why I keep coming back to the game, even after hours of reviewing it: there is a sense of exploration that the game rewards you for.
Every boss fight I’ve managed to get to and defeat, every single realm I’ve beaten the heck out of, I did so on my own without the game pushing me in any sort of direction. It throws you new weapons upon entering new worlds that you get to experiment with, but it doesn’t tell you what weapons are best for the world. All of it is on you to figure out. The game simply gives you an arsenal of tools, a rocking soundtrack, then let’s you on your way. It’s glorious, and getting to the end of it made me feel the same feelings as killing a major boss in Dark Souls.
There isn’t much to say about GoNNER‘s items since they are most generic things about the game, but I still have to mention them. When players start the game, there are a few heads that can be equipped offering different amounts of health. One offers five, another three, and the last one simply offers one. It’s clear which of these heads players will opt for, making the other redundant. There are other heads that will become unlocked as players enter the later worlds too.
In terms of weapons and accessories, there isn’t much to say here either. There is a normal gun that fires modestly, a shotgun that shoots out multiple pellets, and a lazer gun that fire across the entire map. I found myself sticking to the lazer gun even after finding more and more guns throughout my multiple playthroughs, and I suspect that others will do the same. The accessories are where the real customization comes into play. There is a backpack that instantly reloads your weapon, and extremely valuable tool in a game where enemies will soon be flooding your screen. Another explodes around you, killing those within close proximity. The last one to be offered, and my personal favorite, is one that shoots your weapon is quick succession without using up your ammunition. Of course there are more that unlock, but these are what players will start off with.
I just wish that unlocking items in the game wasn’t so plain as reaching a new world and unlocking a new weapon, head, or accessory. The Binding of Isaac rewards players for doing unique things that take creativity. This same system should be implemented into all roguelikes, but GoNNER does carry that challenging connotation to it.
Navigating the world
The first world of GoNNER doesn’t offer much in terms of variety, being set in a black and white world with easy to maneuver platformers and predictable enemies. The music here is mild yet catchy, and it only ever picks up during moments of mass damage. The most redeeming quality of the first area is the secret area that offers a lot of currency used to buy more lives or items along the way. Even the boss here is kind of a joke, being taken down in just a few shots as the minions do nothing but rack up your score.
Then we delve into the hellish second world.
As I played more and more of GoNNER I began to notice a pattern: the first world is simply a warm up for what is to come. It’s easy, anyone can do it, and it gives you enough currency to revive yourself if you die later on. And you will, trust me. The second world has gaps in the levels that will kill you instantly if you fall in them, enemies that track you, turrets that fire upon you without mercy, and the platforms aren’t visible to you until you’re right next to them. Even if you run through the level as fast as you can, praying that if you just get to the end nothing bad will happen, something bad will happen. You will get chased down forever until you deal with the threats.
And if you get hit in the world? You better pray even harder. In GoNNER, when you get hit, all of your items fly off of your body in random directions. This means that even your head that gives you health flies off of you, and if you get hit without a head it’s an instant death. But, in a world where sometimes there is no floor, you can kiss your items goodbye. You’ll be alone in the world, having to jump over enemies in an adrenaline fueled craze. It’s glorious, and if you survive you will feel like the single greatest gamer to have ever lived.
I’m not going to discuss the later worlds for I feel people should experience them for themselves, but I will say that the color schemes of the worlds becomes more intense. White lights, neon flashes that throb, and with music to match the frenzy. They are worth fighting your way towards, and you’ll have fun along the way.
As I finished GoNNER, I find myself coming back to it in the same way I went back to The Binding of Isaac or Spelunky. The game may not be perfect in terms of amount of items or somewhat stiff controls, but it has a certain charm to it that I find endearing. It’s a game that fans of other roguelikes will enjoy most certainly, but for people who want a refreshing take on the genre, they won’t find it in GoNNER.