In a word, Enter the Gungeon is overwhelming. Screen after screen of enemy-filled rooms challenge your ability to multitask. It takes the rogue-like formula of its predecessors and combines it with the mechanics of a pattern-heavy bullet hell like Ikaruga, then layers a heaping dose of its own charm on top. The end result is a hellishly difficult, vastly rewarding game with a tone all its own.
At the beginning of a run, you select from four characters, each one with a few different traits. Every adventurer (or “gungeoneer”) has a specific reason for entering the Gungeon, which holds a mythical gun that can exorcise the demons of their past (the game literally refers to it as a gun that can kill the past.) The narrative also provides the perfect amount of intrigue to make every character you come across in the Gungeon engaging, of which there are many. Some of those characters open up shops, either deep inside the dungeon itself, or at the game’s hub world, The Breach. Shops in The Breach let you use special currency acquired from bosses to unlock items you can later find in the dungeon’s chests and shops for use at critical times.
Even before you start unlocking them from vendors, though, there are loads of guns on offer in Enter the Gungeon. From flashy laser beams to goofier options like the lowercase r, which spells out “bullet” with its projectiles as it fires. Without being able to view the specific stats for each gun, of which there are hundreds, choosing the best gun for each situation can be difficult. Sure, an assault rifle is generally better than a pistol, but when you have to decide between a cactus and a klobbe submachine gun, the choice of which gun is “better” becomes more gray.
However, I had the most fun with Enter the Gungeon when I left behind the notion of conserving ammo (a sparse commodity) or picking the perfect gun for each room. At the end of the day it’s a game about zipping around walls of bullets, and making sure enemies get a face-full of lead—regardless of the delivery system. Not being able to get into the nitty gritty of every single weapon nagged at the hardcore gamer in me, but I don’t think it impacted my ability to play the game.
I’m going to be honest with you—I wasn’t able to beat Enter the Gungeon. After many binge sessions, one of which resulted in me stopping because my PlayStation 4 started to feel more like a hotplate than a game console, I was able to reach, but not beat, the game’s final level multiple times. Having to start over from the beginning of the Gungeon after each playthrough made every death that much more gut-churning. Dying not only meant an end to an otherwise good run, but also came with the baggage of knowing that I’d have to make the trek back through earlier stages, losing all the awesome weapons I had previously gained.
Even though there were a few times that I yearned for for an easier difficulty (like the time I threw a legitimate temper tantrum after a particularly crushing defeat by a bullet-spewing boss), Enter the Gungeon’s difficulty is actually one of the game’s strong points. After every death, you can feel yourself getting marginally better at the game, and it does a good job of rewarding you for every small victory. Defeating bosses without getting hit earns you an extra heart container, and properly utilizing the game’s limited resources can lead you to some tremendous loot. You might needlessly fall into a pit or dive directly into enemy fire, but Enter the Gungeon goes out of its way to help you forget about those missteps.
If you’re having trouble taking on the game’s more challenging levels, you can play alongside a friend via two player couch cooperative play. Instead of playing as one of the game’s heroes, your ally takes on the role of a mage sidekick, packing a nerf gun that provides a bit of extra oomph when facing off against foes. Coordinating attacks with your sidekick makes going through the Gungeon a bit easier, as you can trade focus between bosses and other enemies, but you’ll also have to fight over who gets to keep the items in each chest.
One of the other reasons I kept delving into the Gungeon was because I needed to see what secrets it held. For example, an enigmatic NPC talks with you through a grate in the ground, asking “Have anything to offer?” Another room has many tombs, presumably holding the bodies of fallen foes, around a mysterious altar. One of the shopkeepers seems to speak some translatable alien language. There were even some NPC’s who I saved from certain peril in the depths who I never saw again, though I’m sure they’re lurking somewhere deep in the darkened corners of the randomly-generated Gungeon.
Enter the Gungeon is an absolute masterpiece of the genre. Though it probably won’t convert anyone who’s isn’t already a fan of Roguelikes due to its overwhelming difficulty, I see myself spending a lot of time making my way to the bottom of the Gungeon in the future.
Enter the Gungeon is one of the most polished games I’ve ever played, especially considering the multitude of items that are available. Just when I thought that the rogue-like genre had been done to death, this game comes along and completely turns me around. I’m not sure I’ll ever master the Gungeon, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever want to leave, either.
T – Teen
|Enter the Gungeon is available on PS4 and PC. Primary version played was for PS4. Product was provided by Devolver Digital for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.