GoNNER2 Indie Snippet
In a year dominated by major tentpole titles such as Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, and Breath of the Wild, the original GoNNER still managed to stand out as one of the must-have releases of the Switch’s burgeoning 2017 eshop lineup. Along with other strong indies like Kamiko, Golf Story, and Slime-san, GoNNER helped cement the “Switch is the best place for indies” sentiment early on in the console’s lifecycle.
For returning fans of the first game, GoNNER2 feels like reuniting with an old fiend and picking up right where you left off. The core concept is identical: you’ll platform and shoot your way through randomly generated levels while fending off relentless enemies in pursuit of reaching the boss at the end of each world. Among other gear, players can equip different types of skulls, each boasting a different number of hearts. Lose all your hearts (or get your skull knocked off) and one hit is all it’ll take to get a “game over.”
While playing evasively and rushing towards the goal with minimal confrontation is usually an option, fighting and maintaining combos generates currency that can be spent on health, weapon, and ability upgrades at the shop before every boss battle. In this way, GoNNER2 naturally prompts players to switch up their playstyle on the fly to whatever best suits the scenario. This is doubly true with the new local co-op mode, which lets you jump into the fray with a pal while leveraging varying loadouts and–if you’re a glutton for punishment–enabling friendly fire.
Of course, GoNNER wouldn’t be GoNNER without the soul-crushing difficulty that made the original title stand out early on. A rogue-like through and through, gradually learning favorable loadouts and getting a better handle on how to approach enemy types through heaps of deaths remains a core part of the experience. This time around, however, GoNNER2 is a bit more forgiving than its predecessor in that it offers players a choice between two worlds at the start of every run. Instead of being forced to slam your head against the same starting world over and over to progress, this ability to choose helps keep things accessible for new players and fresh for players of all skill levels.
Even better, this increased accessibility means more players will get to experience just how well the GoNNER series continues to nail making moment-to-moment gameplay feel tactile and satisfying. The series protagonist Ikk can double-jump, wall-jump, and now dash in any direction. The addition of the dash complements the existing mechanics perfectly, and all of these are even further augmentable by discoverable abilities and gear hidden throughout the worlds. From abilities that make bullets ricochet off walls to special skulls that completely change how players interact with the world, Art in Heart’s inventiveness and commitment to replayability continues to impress.
I’d be remorseful if I didn’t also touch on another aspect of GoNNER2 that succeeds in its own way, namely the lovingly abstract art direction. It’s the type of game that always looks better in motion; the rough, blocky environments and simple enemy designs can be otherwise off-putting or easily dismissed. Likewise, since levels build themselves as you move through them (similarly to Bastion), areas usually look half-complete at any given time. However, all of this works together to create an experience that feels handpainted and unpredictable. Planning a route through a level isn’t really possible; part of the fun is going in and seeing the layout reveal itself.
GoNNER2 is about as faithful a sequel as fans could hope for. It’s still teeth-grindingly difficult, endearingly weird, and an absolute joy to play. While it hasn’t reinvented the wheel, the changes that have been made are all improvements that address the few complaints levied against the original. This is undoubtedly the best place to jump into the series, and as long as new players approach the game like a toy to have fun with instead of just trying to make it to the end, they’re sure to have a blast.