20/06/2017

☆ Review: Nongunz "Bullet Heaven" ☆

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There are some ‘sort of’ spoilers up ahead. Some people may wish to go into this game completely blind and work out the mystery of the game mechanics for themselves but in order to review the game, I’ll have to explain how the game works. 

If you are in this category and just want to know if it’s any good without knowing anything further, then yes, it is. It’s completely awesome. Now stop reading and go and buy it.

When I received the game to review, I installed Nongunz to try out for a few minutes, check if it ran on my PC, get a feel for the genre etc. before then setting an evening aside later in the week to delve into it properly….four hours later I was still playing it. 

It’s good, it’s REALLY good.
First, the bones of the game. Nongunz is a side-scrolling action/platform game with a muted visual palette and heavy gothic overtones. As mentioned above, I do suggest diving into the game without any prior knowledge to get the full effect. The game’s basic mechanics are briefly explained via stained-glass windows (obviously) and then you are off on your own.



You play as a silent protagonist who starts with a pistol, each time you fire your gun, a counter at the bottom goes up by one point. Initially, I thought (due to the games’ title) that I was meant to go through Nongunz firing as few bullets as possible. I was VERY wrong. It turns out that this counter needs to go up, up, up. Leaving the underground section and emerging into the game ‘hub’ (a massive graveyard, but what else would you expect from a game which counts Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Seventh Seal’ as an influence?) you walk around and discover a few initial points of interest. A crypt which contains four coffins (more on these later) and a sarcophagus (more on this later), a huge altar filled with animal skulls and weapons (more on this later) and some underground walled-off areas (you guessed it…) finally, off to the far-right, there’s Theresa May an enormous, towering cathedral, not ominous at all.
Upon entering the cathedral, the top-right of the screen shows the layout as well as the location of the boss, item-store and occasionally a room with a new gun or skull in it. You traverse the rooms but locating doors which move you to corresponding areas. The rooms are randomly generated and filled with grotesque monsters, dismembered fingers leaving an acidic blood trail, mounds of flesh and eyes that drag themselves across the floor and strange pig-beasts are but a small selection of them. The cleverness in the game comes from, among other things, the balance of risk and reward. You can find chests in the game, but it costs a portion of health to open them. You can try and get to the boss, but if you fail on the way or during the battle itself, you die losing all of your items and weapons. To escape, you can leave through the windows scattered around which take you back to the graveyard, replenishing your health and allowing you to spend your points wisely. In this section of the review, I’ll break down the game mechanics in more detail.



Points – You get these by firing your gun, raising combos from chain-killing enemies and rescuing worshippers from the cathedral. When you save a worshipper, they return to the graveyard and pray to the altar of weapons, slowly raising your points in the background, even if in the game you remain idle.
Crypt – in here, the cards you collect from the cathedral are stored. You can either keep them on your character for their passive buffs (more health, stronger weapons, less recoil etc.) or you can choose to destroy them in order to regain a portion of your health whilst in the cathedral. Also in the crypt, you can place the bones you have collected, along with a weapon into the sarcophagus and raise a warrior to fight with you.
Altar of Weapons – here is where a lot of my points were spent. You can put your raised points into a vast array of skulls (which grant various powers) or weapons (they shoot things) in order to unlock them to help out on your journey through the cathedral to the boss.
I cannot express how perfectly balanced this game is or how well it works out for various playstyles. Like a ‘clicker’ style of game? Fine, just keep pressing the fire button as you wander around raising your points to unlock the best weapons and items. 

Want a challenge? Ok, head straight through to try and kill the boss using just a pistol and your wits. 

Like grinding? No problem, do a few rooms, pick up some cool stuff, get out of there, store them up and repeat. 

Struggling? Just leave the game on overnight and in the morning you will have thousands of points to use unlocking some saucy firepower to give you a fighting chance. 

Honestly, this game caters for everyone.
I couldn’t believe how addictive it was, whenever I died and was sent back to the graveyard, it always felt fair and I knew I’d pushed myself too much when I should have left with the items I had, maybe unlocked a new weapon and re-started, maybe I shouldn’t have lost a load of health greedily opening chests willy-nilly, it never felt cheap or a chore. The music in the game really adds to the oppressive, nihilistic atmosphere and, the whole game is engaging and dark with rich, fleshy sound effects and smooth animations (I especially like the rolling animation whilst wearing a skull, very cute). 

The random generation of the cathedral’s layout each time you enter ensures that each run through feels unique. Every time you enter a room with a swinging cage holding another of your followers or you find a new gun which you desperately try to keep aside for a boss, it all adds to the tension and enjoyment, I can’t remember another game where I’ve thought, “ok, one more time, THIS is the one!” so often.



Summary:
I know I’ll be playing Nongunz for weeks to come and at a fiver, it’s insane value for money. I really hope this gets a PS Vita release because it’s the perfect game for the system and it would sit perfectly in my library next to Downwell and like Downwell, it would never leave it. 

There’s such a layer of mystery to the game, why does the screen only fuzz at the graveyard? 

What’s the strange room that shows up when you quit out of the game? 

What’s in that secret case? 

What does the ukulele do? 

I heartily recommend Nongunz to everyone; it is an absolute gem of a game which has such intense depth and rewarding gameplay. Brainwash Gang do NOT mess about.
I’ll see you in the cathedral.
P.S – The developer has released a brief overview of the game mechanics and items etc. which explains everything far more clearly than I have here, definitely worth a read if you find yourself getting lost or need clearing up on a few things.




RATING:ICE COOL

Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Just Falls Short Of Greatness)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)
 

Game Link: Steam
Dev Link: Brainwash Gang
















Reviewed By Britt
(from @kingdomofcarts)