N-GON review
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N-GON review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on October 26th, 2022
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: GLITCH GAME
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This vertical shooter can only really win you over with its chaotic sense of style.

Developer: Grigorii Makarov

Price: $3.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone SE

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

Lots of mobile games focus themselves on being as legible and accessible as possible to encourage play on-the-go. I won't say N-GON can't be played while out and about, but I will say it has such an extreme visual style paired with some simple mechanics that can be hard to deploy just right unless you are giving the game your full attention. It makes for a satisfying, hardcore-feeling experience, but one that you might not always feel drawn to play as a result.

Smeared shooter

N-GON is an arcade-style shooter where you control a ship as it flies through the void of space, shooting at all kinds of enemies. Your ship and enemies are all represented as simple geometric shapes that reminds me of early arcade vector graphics like Asteroids or Tempest.

This sounds like a very straightforward and simple concept, but it's complicated by two important factors. The first is that you can double-tap on the screen to fire out a magnet that attracts your own bullets so you can arc shots. The second is that there's a ridiculous amount of glitched-out effects and screenshake that gives N-GON a tremendous sense of speed and the feeling like the game itself is bursting at the seams to even function.

Gate hopping

Progress through N-GON is fairly linear. Each level or "gate" consists of several waves of enemies that enter the screen from all sides and killing them all or simply surviving through their attacks gives a brief moment of respite before encountering another wave. Your ship can take two hits, and you can regain a hit between gates. If you die, you can choose to restart from the gate were on or the entire game from the beginning.

The beginning stages of N-GON play out like a very simple shooter, requiring very little of the player beyond some basic maneuvering while your ship fires away. After clearing the first few gates, though, enemies start showing up with shields and special attacks that will test your skills at angling your shots via your deployable magnet while also dodging through a chaotic mess of special projectiles.

Tricky triangulation

It's when the difficulty ramps up that N-GON suddenly becomes a game where you think "oh, maybe I should sit down and use two hands to play this." Between the visuals vibrating half-way off the screen and the quick reflexes needed, there is very little that feels casual about the experience.

For anyone who may be overwhelmed with the visual chaos, there's probably not a whole lot here for you. There are no options to scale back any of the game's stylization, so if you have photosensitivity or just want a more visually clean experience you are out of luck. At the same time, though, I'm not sure N-GON would feel like it would have nearly the same sense of thrill without its extreme aesthetics. The "bullet magnet" mechanic by itself doesn't feel substantive without feeling like you're also on careening out of control at all times.

The bottom line

It's probably fair to say that I enjoy the sensory experience of playing N-GON more than whatever I'm actually being asked to do. It's a totally serviceable vertical shooter, but the special sauce that gives it its identity is the way it looks and feels.

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