Nongunz Review: A Ballsy Roguelike Adventure
Nongunz is quite unlike anything I’ve played before. I tried to explain it to a friend of mine the other day and the only words that came out were ‘it’s killing me..slowly and easily’.
You see, Nongunz is the most deliciously evil old school version of Dark Souls you’ll probably ever play. Hidden deep within this procedurally generated hellscape is a game that has some real depth, does not hold your hand and gladly kicks the ever living stuffing out of you around every two dimensional corner.
It’s fair to say I didn’t exactly get on with Nongunz when I first booted it up. My long gestating laptop had been aching for a new game to play for some time and when I presented it with Nongunz, it was ready to spit it back out at me due to the sheer fact I was so damn terrible at it for the first couple hours. I haven’t had a huge amount of experience with rougelikes, and though I have certainly enjoyed the ones I have played they were all brilliantly simplistic compared to the sheer battering of Nongunz.
So what is this fear inducing game all about anyway?
Well, Nongunz (a title which rolls off the tongue quite beautifully), is an action platformer, where you control a skeleton that has most definitely lost his head (there is a reason for this). As you make your way through the murkiness of black and grey dungeons, you find yourself coming up against monsters, curiously shaped like different piece of the human anatomy.
And boy do they want to you. Everything in this game wants to hurt you and there isn’t a single thing you can do about it. Even the weapons you carry want to see you perish and it’s here where the game went from frustrating to its punishing difficulty, to frustrating purely because I felt like the game was purposely stifling me from progressing in any kind of meaningful way.
It’s apocalyptically frustrating when your weaponry (which is already absurdly expensive) decide to turn on you. You don’t really have an awful lot of room to navigate in Nongunz (you’re tightly packed into nearly every area and it begins to grate once you progress, the lack of room goes against my particular play style, which isn’t obviously a complaint on the game itself, but the constant battle against my own natural way of playing these kinds of games were used against me without the game even really being aware of it), and so you need to take extra precautions to ensure you’re not anywhere near blasts when they go off as you’ll feel the force of it pretty immediately.
You also don’t have access to an awful lot of ammo so it becomes awfully tactical. I can’t do anything but praise the game for its constant battering of you, even the chests want to end your life. It’s relentless.
It’s not all doom and gloom – well, not quite – seeing as you’re a headless skeleton roaming the mean dungeon streets you can acquire power-ups, primarily you want to be hunting for skulls to place upon your decapitated body. Skills will give you some solid abilities such as fast movement, and projectiles. Naturally, they don’t last long so the points you acquire by killing enemies can be used to purchase new skulls but they simply won’t last as long as you would like and before you know it you’re back to your pistol which is not upgradeable and the game is ending you all over again before you get a chance to breathe.
As you upgrade, the game’s difficulty upgrades with you and once you’re out of skulls all you really have is your pistol which is about as beneficial to your offence as a marzipan baseball bat.
The only way you’ll know about any of this is you read reviews before you jump in. The game tells you nothing of the fact that weapons will hurt you, chests will hurt you, damn near everything will. You get to know precious little information about damn near anything, as the game pretty much drops you in the dungeon and just lets you at it. If there was any kind of way to become aware of these details then you could do a little to prepare. The core of the game isn’t explained in any detail and there’s not really a tutorial. The game is essentially akin to leaving school and then being told ‘right! Go get a job and pay taxes BYE!’
I mean, maybe. I saw Nongunz as a metaphorical interactive version of my own existence, but perhaps that’s just my own issues rather than the games. But I digress…
By now you’ve probably decided whether or not Nongunz is for you. Yes, it’s a hell of a challenge but rising to it will either make or break you. You’ve got to give this game a serious chunk of your time to get your head around the severity of it all. Visually it’s simplistic but atmospheric enough to add to the confusion and genuine fear you face tearing it around these gloomy dungeons. The design of the game perfectly compliments the absurd nature of it all, and the animation of the enemies, their striking red hue bringing some kind of colour to proceedings, must be commended (oozing liquids, nastiness abound). The music is solid and adds to the overall feeling of dread with its atmospheric melodies. The soundtrack almost sounds like a Best Of compliation of your favourite gothic ringtones and that alone gets the game an extra point.
Despite the feeling the game is tirelessly working against me, progressing through the game is immensely satisfying. When you beat a boss with your minimal weaponry you feel like a beast, only then of course to be battered to the ground in the next area. I did find myself become slightly obsessed with trying to defeat as many enemies as I could. I know I’m not good enough to have beaten the game in one run (if you have, please let me know and let me stroke your hair for its secrets) but that ‘one-more-go’ aesthetic is very much present and correct here. I’m not sure why I kept doing it to myself. Ah, videogames.
Nongunz is not for the faint hearted. If you feel you’re worthy of the challenge, jump right in.
Platform: PC (version reviewed), Mac & Linux
Developer: Brainwash Gang
Publisher: Sindiecate Arts
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review copy from the publisher.