For unique player deaths, play Limbo. For a colourful world of odd creatures, play Guacamelee. For a game where Death is one of the good guys, try Darksiders. For a combination of all three themes, try GoNNER, Raw Fury’s latest title and one that’s the creation of developer, Art in Heart's Ditto.
As part of Raw Fury’s gamescom line-up, I got to spend a bit of time playing through some of GoNNER and having a chat with Ditto to find out more about his creation.
In a nutshell, GoNNER is a typically tough, procedurally-generated 2D roguelike that combines cute character designs and general story nods, with a frustratingly difficult gameplay loop, but one that keeps you coming back for more and more… and more and more and more. You take the role of Ikk, a mysterious being, who takes on the task of cheering up his land-dwelling whale friend. The mission takes you on an adventure through constantly changing environments, sliding down smiling snake-like creatures into the depths of the land you inhabit, and fighting your way through evil hedgehog-like creatures.
Ditto admitted he took huge inspiration from Edmund McMillen, enamoured by the way he manages to create such interesting games in a simple 2D flash-like style; after seeing GoNNER in motion, that claim becomes instantly apparent. The way Ikk moves is very reminiscent of Mr Meat Boy himself (Super Meat Boy) and the hypnotic sound-track blends perfectly with the mysterious and inoffensively macabre theme or death and bones.
Don’t let that fool you into thinking that this is a dark and twisted, Souls inspired romp through the deepest depths of hell, though. Somehow, even when mentored by Death himself (herself, itself?), GoNNER manages to be a heartwarming and sincere adventure that wouldn’t look out of place on one of those trippy bedtime children’s TV shows. And speaking of Death, (we’ll go with he), aside from being the creepy ghost who lurks outside your own home, he’s your mentor and provider of arms, and this is where GoNNER comes into it’s own.
Ikk isn’t your bog standard hero, he is malleable and can change at each restart (following your inevitable death). Once in the land of the living you have three things you can customise, combine and select. First your head, fancy having just a skull, a bombardier’s bearskin or a more fashionable bear skin? Take your pick. Then there’s your backpack; do you want a burlaps sack or a more hefty box to show your strength? And finally, you’re weaponry; flamethrower, bazooka, a pistol or something a bit different?
Of course, it’s not all aesthetics, each option affects how Ikk plays, though the only way you find out is by selecting it and getting stuck in. A certain head will give you an extra life, back packs might affect how high you can jump or how much ammo you have, and guns change how much awesome you can carry into a battle.
It goes deeper still though, with certain items combining with others to make a unique power-up, for instance, one combination I discovered enabled you to back flip Neo-style after firing a shot and jumping, a smart way to get out of trouble quickly. It’s incredibly diverse how Ikk can change from one cycle to another, particularly as you are in the process of choosing a combination that suits you. Twinned with the procedurally generated nature of each level, everybody is in for a different and equally as tough playthrough. It’s begging for streamers to set unique challenges against their peers and viewers!
I only got to spend a brief period of time with GoNNER and I was surprised how quickly time seemed to go. Most of my early playthrough was spent trying to find the perfect combination of head, backpack and weapon, and each time I thought I was well prepared, I was kicked in the backside by that evil mistress, procedural generation. GoNNER looks set to frighten, charm and frustrate - and a roguelike shouldn’t be any other way.
GoNNER is set for release on PC, Mac and Linux on 12th October.