I’ve been fortunate to cover my favourite games as of late. The kind that reward skill and punish mistakes, but get you right back in to the action. Salt and Sanctuary was the last, my first ever Platinum Trophy was Rogue Legacy, Titan Souls was a unique approach to it but Enter The Gungeon takes that toughness to a new level. In its top-down shooter retro look, it eases you in slowly with a short and sweet tutorial before raining hell down upon your very soul. It’s hard to recommend to just anybody, given how brutal it is, but Enter The Gungeon is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had the pleasure of engaging with. Read on for our full Enter The Gungeon Review.
Look and Feel
Enter The Gungeon opens with an incredible, slow build through a brief narrative summary straight in to a cheese-pop musical cue and flashy screen backed by shooting stars, prompting you to Enter the Gungeon. It gripped my cheese-loving sensibilities. It’s cheddar in the best way. I love that song.
The game puts you in a top down, original Zelda perspective and has a colourful, retro charm. It’s easy to keep track of the shots being fired at you and the game performs mostly well, except for an occasional stutter when trying to enter a room it hasn’t generated for you yet. It’s not a big deal, but it does stop you for a moment from time to time.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the “Gungeon” is a theme around the entire game. Your enemies are anthropomorphic bullets or variations on gun-related items. Either that, or they’re wielding epic pieces. Everything about this game is guns, guns, GUNS! Not that it glorifies it, it’s just an interesting setting that I’ve never seen before: to dedicate your design work to this single theme and make it work. Hats off to the guys at Dodgeroll Games.
The gun designs are incredible even in their retro style too, and there’s so many you can find that all have their own look. It’s not some technical achievement more-so than it is an admirable dedication to a singular theme. I really do enjoy the look of this game.
The controls are as fluid as I could comment on, though a couple of buttons are mapped to the same ability such as the dodge-roll. Not so much a criticism as it is a note. If you had more “abilities”, the game wouldn’t be what it is, so I’m fine with it.
Here’s the summary: You take control of one of four “Gungeoneers”, all with their own unique guns and skills to begin with, and venture off in to the Gungeon. In these randomly generated Gungeons, you must defeat a boss on each level in order to progress past the current chamber. Various enemies, themed after guns and gun-related items such as bullets, will attempt to stop you, and you must gun them down from an overhead viewpoint as you dodge-roll to evade their incoming projectiles. Thus, we have the basic overview of Enter The Gungeon.
It’s a simple to grasp, difficult to master. You might get proficient at dodge-rolling through the energy wave the beastly knight swings at you with its sword, but the pop-corn looking bad guys might take you by surprise with their diamond spread bullet pattern. There are so many enemies and I’ll bet I haven’t even scratched the surface because the game’s difficulty is pretty extreme (I’m stuck in Chamber 2 against the Tank boss because IT’S A GOD DAMN TANK AND I’M NOT SOLID SNAKE!). Seriously though, it’s hard, but it’s not unfair, and there’s so much variety in the way that the enemies come at you that I honestly never found myself bored after hours of play. Every time I’d die, despite how utterly hopeless it feels to lose the guns you’ve obtained from chests and any skills (passive or active) you might have picked up along the way, I wanted to dive in again and again until I’d crushed that floating eye-ball boss. And I did. So much so that I’ve forgotten its name, but it’s another funny pun on something to do with guns just like all of them are (my favourite so far has been Gatling Gull. It literally made me laugh out loud).
The four base characters in the hub area outside of the Gungeon each have a gun (or two) and may have one or more active skills that can be used at the press of a button to do things like drop an ammo reload or pick a lock on a chest. They also have passive skills that stay in effect throughout, such as The Hunter’s dog that seems to find extra coins, or The Pilot’s ability to lower the cost of items at the shops you come across down in the Gungeon. I understand why these characters don’t have a progression system, like that of Rogue Legacy, but I think a small one might have helped flesh them out a bit. Their basic traits are interesting, all with their strengths, but I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted to upgrade at least their basic skills, even if I couldn’t unlock new ones for them. Perhaps I’m not far enough in to the game for that to occur, but the only way I’d come across new skills was in the chests you can open with silver keys found after killing some enemies, much like the guns. You could also purchase the occasional one from the aforementioned shop.
The game’s “progression” doesn’t lie with the characters, but instead with the hub world. During your expeditions, should you survive long enough to tell the tale, you may come across a locked cell with a golden lock. You may find a golden key on that floor that will unlock the cell and give you access to new features back in the hub. One such feature is the Hedgemoney Shop, run by a young girl and her giant, robot body-guard that’s missing an arm. Hedgemoney is usually gathered after defeating bosses (they look like little green micro-chips to me). In their shop, you can unlock new guns as well as active and passive abilities that will be sent to chests in the Gungeon, meaning those chests could now give out even crazier weapons or abilities.
Speaking of weapons, what kind of game would Enter The Gungeon be if it didn’t have an incredible array of guns with which to ruin the very cellular structure of your enemies? That’s right, hypothetical reader: no game! That’s why it’s great to see such a vast amount of killing machines. Granted, they vary in effectiveness, but getting a new gun is always a joy. Until it’s awful. But then you can just feed it with another gun to a treasure chest that eats guns (called the Muncher) and spits out one in exchange! It’s like the GameStop of crazy, dungeon-exploring maniacs.
The guns are varied in their shooting style as well. Though you might come across similar guns, they could have an elemental ability attached to their final shot (like the Mailbox, that fires a package on its last round) or they could fire a stream of energy like the Demon Head or the Disintegrater (or “-or”). They also come with funny descriptions most of the time, like the Proton Pack says “Don’t cross the streams”. GET IT!? GHOSTBUSTERS!! Jokes aside, the game makes comedic references throughout and I, for one, appreciate the levity and decent writing involved.
On death, you’ll lose all that you’ve gained and can choose to quick restart from that floor or return to The Breach (the hub area). If you return to The Breach before having unlocked and assisted the dude that fixes the elevator, you’ll begin again from the first floor. This can be a bit jarring, but it encourages you to invest the amount needed to make the elevator work.
The bosses are very creative. Gatling Gull, Bullet King, names-I’ve-forgotten: they were and still are all joys to fight. If you manage to kill them without getting hit, you gain a mastery item as well to acknowledge your skill. Regardless of whether or not you get hit, killing a boss not only grants you access to the next floor but also grants you a few items, hedgemoney and a guaranteed gun, placed on the altar just for you. Aren’t they generous?
Speaking of generous, if you find yourself overwhelmed by bullets coming your way, and you most likely will unless you’re an absolute legend of reflex gaming, you have access to blue bullets called “Blanks”. By using this, it clears the screen of all bullets and gives a moment of reprieve for you to regain your footing. These refresh every floor you progress down and you can sometimes find them after clearing enemies or purchase them from the shop.
I’ve gone on too long as usual, but you should have everything you need to know here about the gameplay. Would I recommend Enter The Gungeon though? It’s hard to say. Though I’m in love with it, the difficulty will put some people off immediately. Other, more “hardcore” players might be upset by some of the seemingly lenient gameplay choices like the refreshing of blanks between floors. While I see no flaw for my own enjoyment, I can see how it might rub some of you the wrong way. Just take in to account all that I’ve said before you take the dive.
Enter The Gungeon is an acquired taste, but I’ve not only acquired the taste, I’ve developed an obsessive hunger for it. All I want to do is destroy that damn tank and find the next wall to bash my head against. The feeling you get when you finally take down a boss that’s been bothering you for a while is nothing short of euphoric, matching that of a Souls game boss kill. The little victories against surprisingly tough, regular enemies are a joy too. Couple that with the sheer variety of weaponry at your disposal providing you’re good enough to reach it and the only thing missing is an upgrade path to make your main characters more meaningful. Nonetheless, Enter The Gungeon is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. I absolutely recommend it, and can’t wait for more from this talented developer.
Game: Enter The Gungeon
Review Format: Playstation 4