Years ago, an editor of mine who was very brilliant used to say, what’s the chance of actually reviewing a game? Even the simplest of games contains multitudes. Even the simplest of games is impossible to get your head and your hands around. Why not just review the first five minutes?
I love this idea, and it came springing back into my mind when I first loaded up Gonner earlier this morning. Gonner is free on the Epic Games Store at the moment, and jeepers! What a first impression! Few games come across as interestingly as Gonner in its first few moments, I would say. It’s so gloriously idiosyncratic, and yet so direct! And so assured!
Gonner’s a shooter, but you don’t get a gun for a few seconds. At first, your character, who is sort of a mucky rough-hewn stamped-shape sort of beast, appears to be a tadpole or a sperm, pursued – aided? – by a friendly whale. They’re a splodge that can jump. Soon though they grow limbs and learn to double-jump. Next comes a gun, with yellow ammo that appears on screen huddled together like so many teeth. Next come things to shoot at, mucky red rough-hewn stamped-shape sort of beasts. You shoot at them and they pop. But hey, maybe you can jump on them too? You can! Mario lives, sort of. Jump on enemies and shoot ’em. Gonner is coming into focus.
I suspect it will never fully come into focus, mind. The worlds I pass through are sketchy and jittery, drawn into life around me as 2D platforming areas with something of the internal organs to them. At the end of each room, you disappear down a sort of gut pipe and emerge somewhere else?
And then? More jumping, more shooting, more discovery. Who knows? Maybe that whale will make a reappearance.