Fans of both top-down shooters as well as dungeon crawlers can now rejoice, as April 5th brought us the release of a fusion of these two genres: Enter the Gungeon.
Enter the Gungeon is a twin-stick shooter developed by DodgeRoll Games. The developer’s name is a great indicator of what players will be doing a lot of besides shooting: dodging bullets by rolling around. The action and flow of the combat feels fast and fresh, and many of the guns you pick up are a wild mix of deadly, fun, and creative. Fans of games featuring inventive gunplay like Ratchet and Clank will love to test out some of the game’s nearly 180 different guns. Some of my favorites include the hilariously quick T-Shirt Cannon, or the effective Scrambler which shoots out eggs that crack into tiny homing bullets.
The goal is simple: choose 1 of 4 starting characters and begin descending a dungeon filled with enemies, guns, and loot. Each floor has a variety of randomly generated rooms, as well as a boss. Ideally, players need to make it to the bottom of the “Gungeon”, where a gun that can kill the past awaits. When a player dies, they lose all progress, guns, as well as items, and are sent back to the top to start over. There are shortcuts, allowing players to start on deeper floors than the first, but they are difficult to earn.
This game is full of smart development choices. As you enter a new room, the minimap fades from the top right corner to maximize your view of the action. After all of the enemies have been wiped out, the minimap returns to show you where you can head next. Backtracking is also smooth, as every floor has a handful of teleporters to allow you to quickly jump between rooms that you have already cleared.
However, the game lacks clear explanations on exactly what a player should do following the excellent tutorial. Starting the main portion of the game, I knew that I needed to descend to the bottom of the Gungeon. I also knew Enter the Gungeon is a roguelike game before I started. But when you actually launch the game, there is no indication that your progress will reset until you die for the first time. Knowing what items, if any, carried over after death would have been helpful to direct players starting out. If I kill one of the three bosses that I’ve seen at the end of the first floor, will they be dead forever?
In addition, the game is marketed as having the ability to be played cooperatively, but players are not given much information on how that feature is accessed. Having so many unanswered questions, I felt lost in my first few hours of playtime. I was not sure how to progress because the game does not explain a lot of core concepts. As much as loading screen tips could be ignored by gamers, Enter the Gungeon could use these to give players a short roadmap for how portions of the game function.
When it comes to visual design, the retro feel with the graphics is very clean and polished. At times, having a shootout in a library with pages flying everywhere makes it a little difficult to tell where your character is, but it ultimately adds to the frenzied action. The music is far more subtle than one might expect with a game using this graphic design. The soundtrack won’t blow you away like the music for Shovel Knight did, but the music successfully steers clear of becoming monotonous for the procedurally generated maps.
Finally, while I have enjoyed my fair share of roguelike games, Enter the Gungeon seems excessively punishing due to the randomness in which you acquire your guns. For example, Rogue Legacy and Darkest Dungeon are difficult roguelike games, but every failed attempt can potentially give the player incremental progress. In Enter the Gungeon, there were numerous runs that made me feel powerless because I felt like I had wasted my time after I died.
Overall, Enter the Gungeon has a lot of really creative pieces of a game. However, without showing players the overall trajectory for the game, many players could get lost and frustrated in the early hours of a playthrough. With brutal difficulty, many players will enjoy it for a time, only to never finish it.