GoNNer has taken up as much of my time as I thought it would when I first saw the preview trailer on Steam, a lot, I knew as soon as I saw the art and movement. I hadn’t heard anything about it before it was released, hadn’t followed the development at all, but when I saw the black background and simple colors I was drawn to it like a forgotten NES game. Like it was something I had missed from my childhood and when I started to dig into it, it felt like that too, I own the game on Steam and on the Switch and I still haven’t beat it. How much play time you ask, oooohh 40 hours.
After a few hours I became impulsive about stringing together combos. Doing so gives you currency for options later in the level, allowing you to change up your strategy by purchasing different heads, guns, and back packs from death, your friend. The game is as strange as that entire last sentence, made more so by the fact that supposedly the goal is to rescue your dear friend Sally the whale. I mentioned I love this game right?
The different parts allow you to do different things in the game. Get hit and you fall apart, revealing a blobby mass of a body that if you get hit once more before collecting all your fallen pieces from the first hit, you die. If you have enough of the aforementioned currency you can buy a continue, but they get more expensive each time. My go-to gun is the “laser,” in quotations because nothing is really explained to you, that’s my description. There is something that sounds like a nerf blaster, a “shotgun,” and others that I have a hard time describing even, the “gun” that shoots like a creeping electric current comes to mind. But the “laser” shoots a solid beam quickly across the screen and through enemies, which when stringing combos seemed to come in more handy for me and my playstyle. Heads are the same way, there’s a teddy bear head, a blocky looking head, and my favorite, the alien head, among others. The alien head lets you float if you hold down the jump button, I find it easier to keep the combo going being able to float. You can always double jump but with the alien head you can save it longer to time it exactly where you need it.
Backpacks are the same, one gives you an extra double jump, one explodes all around you, but the one I’m drawn to is the shark fin which unloads whatever gun you are using without using ammo.
The ability regens over time. To kick off a combo or get extra height on a jump, or just to take out everything in front of you, the shark fin is fun. Something I tend to do a lot with the laser, the alien head and shark fin backpack is use the floating and timed double jump to focus fire. The shark fin has a recoil to it that pushes you back, or if you jump will push you into the air more, while floating it will push you back but not up, so using the double jump at the right time allows you to send the deadly beam straight down a platform full of enemies, or in the case of the first boss fight, steadily into a baddies face.
The most unique gameplay element in GoNNer is the way you fall apart when you get hit. Each head gives you a different amount of hearts and each time you fall apart a heart disappears. You have to gather all of your pieces before you get hit again or you die and you can only fall apart as many times as hearts you have. Ditto (the developer) said in an interview that the falling apart came from early programming. It happened by accident once and he ran with it thinking he could turn it into something and it worked as a unique take on “life” in a game. All of the abilities play on the platforming genre in ways I’ve never seen before. You discover new parts as you play through the randomly generated levels but the trip to finding the parts isn’t like a metroidvania. I never got the sense that I was making my character more powerful, it always seemed like I was giving myself options, new ways to think about how to tackle a level or certain enemies so in that respect GoNNer becomes like a fast-paced real-time puzzle. This is a game that allows you to zone out and play, and once you’ve got the hang of the controls and how the enemies work it becomes addictive fun stringing combos together and progressing through the levels. I tell myself every run that I’m going to slow down and make it to the end but by the end of the first screen the music and shaky screen that come with a combo string have me taking risks so I never get there. But I’m sure I will, especially now that I can take it with me on the Switch.