By Terris Harned (NWOrpheus)
Some games are praised for their graphical elegance. Other titles might be lauded for their masterful symphonic soundtrack. Perhaps a game’s story pulls at your heartstrings, or thrills you to your very core. And then there’s Gorn. Gorn’s graphics are stylized, the animations are ridiculous, the weapon physics are entirely unrealistic, but goodness me if it isn’t just stupid simplistic fun.
Gorn is a VR title by the small developer Free Lives, and published by those lovable rascals over at Devolver Digital. In Gorn you take the role of a gladiator, and must battle your way through multiple floors. Each floor has several gladiatorial arenas (so far as I can tell, three per floor), each with a champion boss. Once you’ve defeated a As you defeat each floor, you will be able to progress to higher level floors with increased challenges.
As Ragachak likes to say, “I beat him like a drum.”
As you progress, things of course become more difficult. You also unlock certain weapons for completion of certain stages and challenges. While I’ve never completed any of the challenges myself, they are a frequent topic of discussion in the game’s Discord server, from achieving a certain number of “parry kills” to the “golden arrow” challenge.
The variety and challenge of the enemy combatants in the arenas varies from floor to floor and wave to wave in each arena chamber. You may encounter damaging spikes, beasts, heavily armored foes, or overwhelming numbers of opponents. The weapon(s) you start with in each arena chamber also vary, but you can always pick up weapons from foes that you’ve slain, or at least dismembered.
Occasionally you’ll see time slow down, but this is a feature not lag. The slowing happens when you parry an enemy attack with weapon or shield, or when you defeat an enemy.
And ohhhh the dismemberment. Gorn is nothing if not a brutal game. You can slice faces in half, or pop eyeballs from their sockets and leave them swinging by the optic nerves. Take off an arm or leg, or even stab someone and extract their heart.
As I mentioned before, the physics in the game aren’t realistic, but I don’t think the game would be nearly as much fun if they were. Backhanding an enemy and watching them hurl across the arena (or out of it) is just too much fun. Almost as much fun as grabbing a defeated foe and using them as a weapon to pummel another combatant.
You can even just grab stunned foes and beat other gladiators with them. It’s glorious.
Things can get even crazier with Gorn’s custom mode. In custom mode you can make yourself a giant, or the size of a mouse. You can turn gravity way up, or down. Maybe you want to take another wack at those champions you’ve thumped? Set the champions toggle to “always” and you’ll get your chance.
You can create your own presets of variables in custom mode, or use Free Lives’ presets which include such enjoyment as one punch mode, where a single punch can send enemies flying out of the arena, due to increased knockback and reduced gravity.
You can also equip special hand weapons for custom mode called caestus. There are seven total caestus, each with their own unique qualities, such as grappling fists, a hand crossbow, or retractable claws.
Gorn‘s controls can be a little tricky. There is a comfort mode that narrows the focus when you move, reducing the blur effect that often gives people motion sickness. There are also a variety of control schemes, changeable on the “settings” floor of the tower.
When standing, I found that the method that involved moving your arm, pressing a button, and “dragging” yourself around worked fairly well and didn’t give me much motion sickness, but limited my ability to step in, attack, and step out, seeing as my hands were also holding the weapons.
One major caution: Before purchasing Gorn, make sure that you have a larger than average play space. You’re going to want at least a six foot by six foot area. Gorn tends to encourage and illicit a good deal of flailing about. The tales of people damaging themselves and the objects in their game rooms are many and, while hilarious, tragic. I actually heard from one person on the Discord server who accidentally punched and destroyed their monitor. It was not pretty.
Thanks to Discord user Jimmy Boy#6343 for teaching us Gorn playspace safety.
Also make sure that your sensors are set up in such a fashion that they can detect your controls if you reach towards the ground. Otherwise reaching weapons that fall to the ground will be difficult or even impossible as you move out of tracking range.
Gorn is a hoot. It’s not the prettiest game in the world; though the graphics aren’t terrible and the animations are sometimes senseless (unless the combatants do some serious yoga.) All the same, the game is just great, sophomoric fun where you can flip the bird to floating heads and neanderthals that clearly skipped leg day. I give Gorn 4 out of 5 decapitated heads.
Note: A key was provided for review purposes.