Welcome to the Gungeon – and prepare to enter a world of bullets and guns so ravaging they’ll make your head explode. That, or the bullet from that Sniper really did a number on you.
Enter The Gungeon is a Rogue-like game, similar to that of Binding of Isaac and requires the player to shoot n’ loot their way through each floor, killing sentient bullets that wish to do the player harm.
Each layer ends in a random boss – the first floor being a decent introduction to the game – with each boss getting progressively harder as you descend your way into the Gungeon. But, before you make it to the boss, you’ll have to fight off countless amounts of Gundead, or those sentient bullets I mentioned earlier. The enemies vary in size and weapons, but they are usually using the weapon that their calibre describes. The Shell Gundead will use shotguns, and their color will differentiate their levels of skill for the player. The 9mm Gundead will use anything from pistols to rifles, and they might be wearing bandanas which will be marked if they are full-auto enemies.
The character design really works well with the overall aesthetics of the game, allowing the bit-style visuals to really shine through. The only complaint I’d have for the graphics pertains to the font on the menu screen in-game. It’s just a tad too difficult to read sometimes, and I think it might have to do with the paper design of the Ammonomicon – the in-game Bestiary of sorts, which allows you to read up on enemies and items that you will have acquired through your runs. It’s not a big deal, it just makes me visit the official wiki more often than I’d expect. That being said, the overall design of the bosses, and the small animations that are found throughout the game, surely make up for any issue encountered with the Ammonomicon. My favourite visual detail belongs to whenever small things are destroyed, like shooting a book out of a bookshelf, and then having some of the pages spin out of it. It really makes you feel like you’re having a massive shootout in this Gungeon, and it helps set the goofy atmosphere brilliantly.
That’s another thing I have praise for in this game; the atmosphere of everything. It’s very much the opposite of Binding of Isaac, sporting bright colors and weapons like a barrel that shoots fish. Those things just make it enjoyable to boot up the game and think that you are going to have a fun, new experience, even if you don’t make it very far. And making it very far could well be a tough ask. It might just be me, but Gungeon is deceptively difficult. So much so that I needed to quit out for a little bit after my first fifteen runs – just so I could preserve my sanity. But should you manage to calm down and give it another go, learning from any previous mistakes, you’ll probably find that the game isn’t really that hard. Until at least you hit another progression wall. At times it has really felt like I’ve been playing a Dark Souls game that resets whenever I died. That said, it is surprisingly refreshing to play something so difficult, but to actually visibly improve and become pretty decent overall.
Much of that is because Enter The Gungeon introduces content in a trickle. But that’s not a bad thing. You slowly unlock new NPCs who will let you buy exclusive items which, if you’re lucky, will just catapult you into new depths. The first NPC you unlock is the requisitions department in The Breach, the home world that you start out in, and they allow you to spend currency you get from killing bosses to unlock new weapons and passive items in the Gungeon. You might not run into the new content for a while, but it is almost guaranteed that you will hit the first few items before you meet the second NPC – one who will open up building shortcuts to skip levels of the Gungeon, so as to help the player skip through to the latter parts of a run.
Every NPC in the game has a use, usually offering a quest line that will help you unlock more guns and items to discover on your next runs through the Gungeon. This helps give some direction to your runs, which is something that lacks in other Rogue-like titles. With the added incentive of new items, it really helps give the player more focus, even if they get bored of just trying to make it to the last level of the Gungeon. It might make people set their objectives towards killing as many Bulletmen as they can, or even try to find secret areas, such as the secret levels of the Gungeon. The game just has structure to it, rather than being an incremental Rogue-like that lacks any and all focus. That really is refreshing.
Now, I really have only one complaint against the game, and that’s the fact that it can be super frustrating to new players. You could have one good run, but because you didn’t time your dodge roll just right, you end up dead. The part that really stings is that it takes so long to actually make good progress, that losing it feels really harsh and pretty upsetting. If the game were just a tad bit quicker, or gave the player the option to play a higher calibre Gungeon that would offer better damage at the cost of lower health, then it would be less of a loss when the player inevitably dies in the first of many long runs.
But, aside from it just being disappointing when you die, Enter The Gungeon is nigh-on perfect. The hits are fine, the gunplay is wonderful, the animation and designs are fantastic, and it really needs to be picked up and played by anybody who isn’t looking for something really casual. This is a bullet-hell Rogue-like – not some Binding of Isaac clone.
It is in fact its own beast, but if you can tame it, you’ll have one of the best rides of your Gungeoneering life.