There was something about Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition’s vibe that screamed ‘play me!’ as soon as I saw it, with the peculiar yet stylish visuals and action-packed 2D gameplay certainly catching my eye. However, I’ve always found rogue-lites to be a bit hit and miss… sometimes I love them, but other times I find myself frustrated and fed up quickly.
With Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition though, I found myself a bit divided. I won’t lie, the obscurity of the game’s mechanics left me ready to quit on more than a few occasions, yet there was a satisfaction to the gameplay loop and learning what to do that kept me coming back for more.
Like a lot of rogue-lite shooters, Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition sends players through procedurally generated 2D dungeons as they blast away at enemies, grab collectibles, and traverse through hazardous challenges, with the ultimate goal being to reach the end… I think. There isn’t a heck of a lot of detail as far as the game’s story is concerned, so I don’t really know what I was working for. But hey, who cares when you get to do a ton of shooting, right?
“The obscurity of the game’s mechanics left me ready to quit on more than a few occasions, yet there was a satisfaction to the gameplay loop and learning what to do that kept me coming back for more.”
There are plenty of different enemies out to get you, with their varied attacks and movement styles certainly putting players’ skills to the test. The bosses in particular make for brutally satisfying showdowns, with their attack patterns certainly keeping you on your toes. Thankfully, you’re well-equipped for the job, with a good selection of different guns to use as well as a couple of melee weapons. The variety is impressive, with things like pistols, shotguns, rocket launchers, and even a bow at your disposal. There is a bit of a catch though: you can only fire these weapons horizontally, so you have to position yourself correctly to shoot foes. This could actually be a bit of a pain at times and left me vulnerable to plenty of incoming attacks, but hey, that’s the rules in Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition.
Thankfully, you’re pretty nimble, so running, jumping, and dashing your way out of enemies’ reach is easy enough. There are invincibility frames in your dashes too, and believe me, timing them perfectly can be the difference between life and death in some encounters. It adds a frantic nature to each battle with enemies though, which works nicely with the sheer chaos of the gunfights. There are special skulls to collect that’ll grant you some special abilities too, with these proving to be game-changers in some instances. One allows you to land additional jumps in mid-air for example, whilst another allows you to ground pound. You’ll be surprised how useful that latter one is, ESPECIALLY with the lack of full directional shooting in the game…
“Thankfully, you’re well-equipped for the job, with a good selection of different guns to use as well as a couple of melee weapons.”
You can also collect different cards that’ll power up your stats in a variety of ways, with some collected through exploration and others bought. Each card has a different value too, so some are more useful than others. In a way, it’s a straight-forward system, though the random nature of the items displayed on them as well as the unclear stat indicators can make the system slightly confusing. Still, equip them and you’ll get some buffs… I suppose that part isn’t so hard to grasp.
Those cards do come with an extra benefit, though. If you find yourself taking a lot of damage, you can consume them to recover some HP, with the amount dependant on the value of the card. I can imagine sacrificing the cards for HP might seem a bit of a drastic action for some players, but the fact that they have a timer attached to them that sees the card get discarded when it runs out does mean the sacrifice isn’t TOO big of a deal. Here’s a hint: make sure you consume them before that timer comes to an end!
“Sometimes, you’ll have to do a run through a dungeon KNOWING you’ll be leaving midway just to build up points to have a better chance of success the next time around…”
Of course, you’ll lose them anyway if you die, with Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition’s rogue-lite setup seeing players lose all of their belongings upon death and having to start over again. It sucks to lose everything, but there are ways around it by finding a window mid-dungeon and returning to the town. You can store some of your more valuable cards in the town for future runs if you like, whilst the points you accumulate through runs can be invested into the ‘weapon wall’ (that’s what I’m calling it) to grab better weapons. Sometimes, you’ll have to do a run through a dungeon KNOWING you’ll be leaving midway just to build up points to have a better chance of success the next time around, with preparation the key to the game. It’s one of those rogue-lite things; you’re either into it, or you’re not.
At least the followers you find on dungeon runs are permanent though, so you don’t have to worry about losing them. If you rescue captured followers, they’ll join you and increase your currency by a set amount every second. You know those clicker games you get on mobile where you’ve got to wait to progress? It’s kinda like that. They help ensure that you’re constantly getting a bit of cash in though, which means you’ll be able to afford those better weapons and power-ups for dungeon runs. It means there is a sense of progress to be found in Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition that makes it easier to get better gear, even IF each death you suffer feels like a gut-punch as you start all over again.
“The monochrome-stylised visuals look great throughout, whilst enemy designs (especially bosses) certainly stand out.”
I ended up having fun with Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition, with the gameplay loop proving pretty satisfying when I started to figure things out. However, I do think it’s a little bit too obscure for its own good. The different mechanics of the game are never explained in depth, with player experimentation required to figure them out. That’s fine, but with the tough difficulty and the fact that you lose everything upon death, it became frustrating simply trying to learn how to play.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I looked online to figure out how everything in the game works, but I shouldn’t have to. Obscurity is fine in a game and, in some cases, it can strengthen the experience. In Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition’s case though, it just felt like a hindrance. Does it stop itfrom being a good game? I don’t think so. I had plenty of frustrating moments, but when things started to click, I found myself enjoying it.
And hey, it certainly looks the part. The monochrome-stylised visuals look great throughout, whilst enemy designs (especially bosses) certainly stand out. It’s all very grim in design really, but in that haunting horror-way that’s easy to appreciate. I was a big fan.
It’s worth noting that this is the Doppelganger edition of the game, meaning it comes with extra content. Local co-op allows you to play through the game with a friend, whilst the Arena mode lets you face an onslaught of enemies until you eventually perish. I’ve not spent much time with either mode so far, but I’m definitely looking forward to playing more with a friend… maybe I’ll have more luck trying to beat it?
Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition offers an enjoyable rogue-lite shooting experience, even IF the obscurity can cause a lot of frustration early on. There are so many things going on in the game that are never fully explained – whilst I’m sure some gamers will appreciate that, it just felt a little annoying for me.
After figuring things out (with a bit of online reading), I started to invest myself in the gameplay loop and had a lot of fun seeing each bit of progress. Nongunz: Doppelganger Edition doesn’t necessarily do anything you wouldn’t have seen before, but between the frantic action and the impressive visual style, there’s still plenty to like about it.
Developer: Brainwash Gang
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Click here to visit the official website.