Review – GoNNER2

The first GoNNER was originally released in 2017 and received overwhelming praise due to its unique visuals and gameplay loop. It stood alongside Strafe and Dead Cells as one of the best roguelikes released that year, back when the simple concept of a “roguelike” was nowhere near as saturated as it is nowadays. After being initially announced on one of the ten gazillion prerecorded gaming conferences streamed during this past summer, its sequel, GoNNER2, is finally out. Albeit in a completely different market reality, one where there’s literally half a dozen new roguelikes coming out each week. Time to see if this one has what it takes in order to stand out among the bloated crowd.

GoNNER2

We just discovered Doduo’s pre-evolution.

GoNNER2 is set in a bizarre yet unique depiction of what I assume it is the world of the dead from Mexican folklore. It’s hard to properly confirm that, as the game does a poor job of telling what the hell is going on, unless you decide to read a wiki or a blurb on a storefront page. This usually isn’t a problem in fast-paced roguelikes (not like I cared about Downwell‘s plot), but in a game that is so hell-bent on building a world like this one, some background would have been appreciated. This whole nonverbal approach to what little it had for a story made me care very little about what was going on, besides the fact that I was working for this game’s embodiment of Death.

The most important thing about a roguelike is its gameplay, and GoNNER2‘s is… decent, I suppose. It’s a fast-paced 2D action platformer with an emphasis on killing tons of enemies onscreen while avoiding everything that comes your way, as one hit kills you instantly. Keep killing everyone in sight, keep collecting currency to exchange for upgrades and extra lives whenever you find a shop, and then try to kill a boss at the end of a run. These runs aren’t particularly long, but the game throws so many foes at you at once, as well as a stupidly hard boss at the end of it, that completing them is still going to be a challenge. You can play the game with a friend, though, making the whole experience way more bearable to deal with.

GoNNER2

This is not a boss, but this is still your boss.

While the gameplay is passable, there are serious problems with it. For one, the jumping mechanics are very sensitive. The simple act of trying to land a jump on top of a blue orb, which grants you an extra boost, is way harder than it should be. Aiming with the right analog stick, while very helpful, also feels very imprecise. Finally, there’s the biggest issue of them all, the one that makes GoNNER2 a frustrating experience instead of challenging one: you can lose all of your lives at once if you’re surrounded by enemies. This is due to the fact that the game does not give you a mere few seconds of invincibility whenever you die and respawn at the same spot. It doesn’t feel fair at all and it made me want to rage quit the game more than once.

The angry blue head isn’t an enemy, but an item chest. The happy orange head isn’t an ally, but an enemy that kills you in one hit.

To be fair, it’s not only the glaring gameplay issues that make GoNNER2 feel so underwhelming. Its visuals are repetitive and its soundtrack is the perfect definition of “safe background noise”. There are simply way too many good roguelikes out there, games that are way better than GoNNER2 in every single aspect. This game isn’t as polished as Hades, relatable as Going Under, or revolutionary as The Crown Tundra‘s Max Lair mode. Simply put, it might be interesting for those who enjoyed the first GoNNER a few years ago, but if you’re new to the franchise, this definitely won’t impress you that much. This is just yet another roguelike coming out in 2020 and far from being one of the best of the bunch.

 

Graphics: 6.5

A very unique art style with some interesting character designs, but also one that gets tiresome way too quickly due to its repetitive color palette and overall simplicity.

Gameplay: 6.5

GoNNER2 might feature some chaotic platforming, but its simple controls are overshadowed by excessively sensitive jumping mechanics and imprecise aiming.

Sound: 6.0

By no means a bad soundtrack, but also a great example of pure, harmless background noise. The Death’s Lair tune is a highlight.

Fun Factor: 7.0

Even though it’s visually underwhelming and a bit janky when it comes to its gameplay, GoNNER2 still offers quite a bit of fun for roguelike enthusiasts. If only this game wasn’t so stupidly unfair…

Final Verdict: 6.5

GoNNER2 is available now on Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of GoNNER2 was provided by the publisher.