Mattias Dittrich (who goes by the developer name “Ditto) seems to have rather a love of jello. Or at least of jello’s quintessential shake and jiggle, a quality which can be found to varying degrees in all of his games, from the charming DAGDROM to the devilishly challenging hets. His first commercial project as part of his newly founded three-man studio, Art is Heart, GoNNER again begs comparison to gelatinous desserts, if, that is, jello fought back.
Though neither GoNNER’s official site, nor its Steam page give up many details, a quick glance at its screenshots and bombastic trailer immediately recall hets’ blend of expressive, procedurally generated run-and-gun insanity. Only now the running and gunning are flashier, wobblier, and populated by exactly one additional sad whale (which is to say there is now a whale, sadly trapped on land).
As GoNNER’s brief and fairly amusing summary relates, you play as the blobby Ikk, out to cheer up his sole friend (the before mentioned sad whale) by diving into dark places in search of treasure. Ludicrous, you say? But of course, and I haven’t even mentioned the way you spawn into levels (which I’ll leave for the trailer to show you). GoNNER appears to be every bit as delightfully surreal as Ditto’s previous work, but what is most intriguing is how it is seeming to build upon the already excellent hets to create something impeccably polished.
That is not to imply that Ditto’s previous work has been amateur. Anything but. His games, however, have always had a rather particular roughness to them that felt intentionally crunchy, as well as prone to occasionally spaz out. GoNNER, in contrast, appears exceptionally sharp and fully developed. Ditto’s character as an artist and developer is still plainly apparent in every frame, but the production is notably higher than anything he has done, and it looks positively phenomenal. GoNNER’s visual style compiles all of Ditto’s most iconic graphical quirks – wiggly edges, bright neon colors, a distinctive, dramatic lighting model – and rolls them into a bizarre, hypnotic scene of hellish sidescrolling dungeon crawling.
This impressive is, granted, based primarily on GoNNER’s trailer and the production gifs shared on Ditto’s Twitter, but given his history and the ways in which GoNNER is more an evolution of a style than an entirely new direction, it seems fair to speculate that the final game will more than deliver on early previews. What that game is, insofar as can be discerned without playing it firsthand, will likely adhere closely to the twitchy, rogue-lite sidescrolling of hets, no doubt expanded and polished in as much as can be done over an already rich and finely tuned shooter.
Hopefully, that question will be answered soon enough. GoNNER’s website lists its release date as “when it’s ready,” but its Steam page places it within the much more imminent period of Summer 2016, placing its release date more or less directly on top of us. Sure, it’s entirely possible that GoNNER could be delayed indefinitely, as any game can and (especially as of late) often is, but for the sake of my own selfish wishes to get my hands on the game as quickly as possible, I’ll hold to the hope that GoNNER is only days or weeks out from release. After all, my whale friend needs me!