Abstract Bullet Riddled Death, A Review For Nongünz
Developed by Brainwash Gang and published by Sindiecate Arts, Nongünz is a bloody, disturbing mess in the best possible way. It offers roguelike elements such as unique generated levels and enemies and different upgrades to equip, while remaining brutal in difficulty -- as upon death, you immediately lose everything. All this is combined with action-packed platforming, gunplay, and boss fights...If you can even survive the dungeons to get to them.
No Hand Holding...Death Awaits
You start the game off as a headless skeleton waking in what appears to be a black and white graveyard with a variety of weapons and skulls. You begin the actual game by entering the nearby building and delving down below into the gothic dungeons, which act as the generating levels.
Here you'll find plenty of grotesque yet interesting enemies -- ranging from worm-like detached fingers that leave a trail of goo which is harmful to the touch, to annoying fly-like enemies that were the bane of my existence and lead to a great deal of deaths.
Beware: death will be an extremely common occurrence, as it comes swift and unexpected in Nongünz. But as quickly as it comes, you can get right back into the action just as quickly -- which gives this game a pick-up-and-play nature that makes it pretty addictive.
However you'll also find plenty of things that can help you, such as chests throughout the environment that, at the cost of your own health, will reward you with random upgrades.
Different shops will also offer different upgrades you can purchase with points you collect from killing and building a score multiplier. You'll also be able to find windows in each area that allow you to escape the dungeon back to the graveyard hub-world and restore your health. You can also find other types of chests hidden through sections of the level that will sometimes offer weapons or unique types of skulls with different abilities.
Very much reminiscent of another roguelike, The Binding of Isaac -- these skulls will give you different upgrades, from being able to do a quick dash in mid-air, to more over-the-top abilities such as creating portals.
You'll also be able to find death cultists hidden throughout levels and trapped in cages. Despite their name, these guys are an absolute godsend -- because the more you collect, the more points you gain back in the black and white graveyard hub-world.
Once back there, they'll pray to your monument of guns and skulls down below. The more you have, the more quickly you'll earn points, which you can then use towards different weapons and skulls at the monument itself -- so hurrah death cultists!
What's The Story Behind it All?
In short, your guess would honestly be as good as mine. The game is extremely abstract in terms of story -- so much so that during my few hours spent with Nongünz, I couldn't legitimately tell you if it even has one. Is this a bad thing? For me personally, not at all.
This game is a seemingly mundane yet somehow enjoyable loop of exploration, death, and beginning from scratch again. However, it does have a few unexpected moments that I won't spoil, and those hint at a possible narrative to be told in this abstract world.
Nongünz is extremely beautiful in terms of art direction and soundtrack, while also filled with a dark metaphorical presentation and style.
Perhaps a Bit...Too Abstract?
At times Nongünz can be a little too abstract -- specifically with its upgrades, which sometimes bordered on complete confusion. I had plenty of moments where I unlocked a chest and was given an upgrade of some kind, but had no clue at all what it even did.
As another example, I remember being very low on health and found an item shop selling an item with a heart on it. So I figured “Oh great, health, I'll take that!” -- my health bar didn't budge or get replenished whatsoever.
It got to a point where I pretty much just avoided opening chests unless I still had tons of health -- and would just randomly buy stuff at the shop without really much thought, because I'd still have no clue what any of it even did or upgraded.
The menus and UI can also be somewhat confusing as well. Just navigating the in-game menu or interacting with stuff like the monument of guns and skulls took me a brief moment to wrap my head around.
Key bindings were an issue, too. I wasn't crazy about jump being default set to W -- so I immediately changed that. But I ran into minor control issues navigating the in-game menu. The key binding menu itself was somewhat of a mess to navigate and bind keys in general, leading me to accidentally binding keys I didn't want to bind to begin with.
The Skinny on Nongünz
Nongünz is perfect for pick up and play, short-burst gaming sessions. Despite some minor control issues, the occassional bug, and things being a bit obscure at times, Nongünz is still a fantastic roguelike action platformer that bleeds style and presentation. And it will keep you coming back for more, especially with that possible narrative buried deep below the game's surface to leave you guessing.
You will love this game if:
- You enjoy a challenge with no hand holding
- You're a fan of roguelikes
- You enjoy quick pick up and play action platformers
You may not like this game if:
- You expect a narrative of some kind
- You aren't a fan of generated levels and enemies, or roguelike systems in general
Nongünz is available for purchase on Steam and is set for release on May 19th, 2017.
Note: The developer provided a copy of this game for the purposes of this review.