STAFF REVIEW of GONNER2 (Xbox One)


Thursday, December 10, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

GONNER2 Box art While I’ve seen it in passing, I never actually played the first GoNNER. I’ve played my fair share of difficult roguelikes, though usually only when they fall in my lap for review. So here we are today, with GONNER 2, the sequel to the well-received original from 2016. Going into GONNER2 as a completely new player, I didn’t know what to expect aside from the description of the store page: “a messy, cute, fast-paced procedurally-generated platformer” and “Intense platformer shooter action”. Intense doesn’t even begin to describe its extreme difficultly at all. If you’ve played the original GoNNER you’ll know what exactly to expect, but if you’re new like I was, you’re in for a rude awakening. GONNER2 is a procedurally generated platformer-shooter roguelike that is very colorful and whimsical in its aesthetic, but don’t let its cute and basic visuals fool you, you’re going to be dying often and repeatedly.

This is where I’d normally delve into the narrative and explain the setting, but there’s absolutely nothing in explained within GONNER2 in any way. No tutorial, no dialogue, no hints, no direction, nothing; just go and figure it out. To figure out what was actually going on I again had to reference its store page to find a description: “In GONNER2, our altruistic and unexpected hero Ikk is back! And this time Death needs his help. Her lair has been taken over by a mysterious presence and she needs Ikk to take it down. Journey your way through deep dark chaotic places with sparks of unimaginable colour and crazy bosses, all while trying to literally keep your head!!”.


Now, I’m not sure how you’d actually figure any of this out as none of the above is actually said or explained in any way, but none of this will matter as you start playing, dying and starting all over again as Ikk delves further into the world to help Death.

Levels are generally small in size, squeezing you out the end of these worm-like creatures, with your goal to make it to the other end and go down the next worm, rinse and repeat. Sounds simple yet it’s anything but, and because every level is procedurally generated every time you play, there’s no memorization to be had, as it’s random. Between the start and end of each stage are tons of enemies, though thankfully the controls are tight and feel quite responsive on a controller.

As you fight your way through each stage, you’ll also want to be mindful of your combo meter once you start to get a grasp on the gameplay and don’t have to focus on simply surviving so heavily. After a certain amount of stages you’ll be able to spend your earned coins on extra hearts and other items before you head into a massive boss fight. Beat the boss and continue on your journey. Die and start over. Pretty run of the mill stuff for more roguelikes.

What makes GONNER2 stand out though is how Ikk can find and equip firearms, but also different heads as well. Ikk starts off as basically a simple blob with legs, but can get a head, backpack and a weapon. You’ll start out with a simple rifle, but can find more weapons hidden along the way. From what I can gather, Ikk’s head makes it so you don’t simply die in one hit, akin to Sonic having at least one ring. When you do get hit you have to go pick up your weapon, head and backpack, as you’re much too squishy and will die without them quite quickly.


If you’ve played the original, you might have to get some used to the fact that you can now aim in any direction, not just the basic four directions. Don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s going to make GONNER2 a cakewalk though, quite the opposite. As you traverse in the stages, the whole world is essentially blacked out aside from the small area around Ikk, almost like having a spotlight constantly on you.

Ikk can move and shoot in any direction, jump, double jump (eventually), dash to damage enemies if you run out of bullets and fire weapons. You have limited ammo though, so you need to be deliberate with your shots and aim well so you don’t be wasteful. Killing enemies will sometimes drop ammo, as will running over sunflowers. Again, something that isn’t explained and I had to figure out on my own. Your combo meter is how you’ll rack up the high scores, needing to kill enemies in rapid succession or else the meter will stop, but this isn’t something you’ll need to worry and focus on until many hours in when you can survive more than a few rooms and bosses at a time.

With a bunch of unlockable secrets, heads, weapons and more, there’s plenty of gameplay to be had, but it’ll simply be determined by your patience of dying dozens and dozens of times. There’s even a local co-op mode if you happen to have someone within the same household to play with, though sadly with the state of the world is in currently, I was unable to test this mode out to its fullest, as I wish an online mode was included.

While I enjoyed my time with GONNER2 even though I was constantly frustrated at dying repeatedly, my biggest issue comes from the fact that there’s no real overall progression. Yes, you get to keep your unlocked weapons, heads and such, but you’re never really working towards much else aside from a highscore and leaderboard bragging rights. Great roguelikes always have that carrot dangling in front of you to entice you to continue playing, and if trying to become a highscore chaser doesn’t appeal to you, there’s not much else here for longevity. I wish there was something else to work towards, like more health or unlocks to make each subsequent run that much easier to survive.


The other issue I constantly had to fight against was its randomness. Yes, it’s procedurally generated levels are one of its features, but I can’t even tell you the times I’ve respawned right into bullets, enemies or unfair spots. Even a handful of times I’ve had it where I was coming out of a worm right into some enemies that were unavoidable. Also, when things get crazy and chaotic, you can get lost in the pandemonium quite easily, which usually ends up in a swift death.

Now, what I did enjoy most was GONNER2’s visual and audio aesthetic. While the graphics are quite basic, it’s colorful, bright and beautiful in a minimalistic manner that screams indie. The audio cues like the different weapons all sound unique and the soundtrack never once grated on me, even after hours of dying. I also never once had any slowdown of any kind and gameplay was smooth throughout on an Xbox Series X.

Difficulty is one thing, unfair is something completely else. GONNER2 fits somewhere right in the middle, though leaning slightly towards unfair and almost out of spite. If you enjoy brutally difficult roguelikes then GONNER2 is exactly what you’re looking for. GONNER2 is also on GamePass, so there’s no reason to not check it out and see if you can handle its challenge.

**GONNER2 was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**




Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10

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