The Gungeon is back and that means it’s time for fans of bullet hell rogue-lites to rejoice. With it comes sweet tunes, tons of guns, and an all-new perspective. Exit the Gungeon describes itself as a small, arcade-style, spin-off that directly follows the events of Enter the Gungeon. The most important thing to know going into Exit the Gungeon is that it is not Enter the Gungeon 2. The most obvious tell is that Exit the Gungeon is not a top-down adventure.
That’s right: one of the two major changes is the switch to a side-scrolling perspective, and instead of clearing rooms to progress, you’ll be on a crazy elevator ride up. The second huge change is the introduction of the blessed weapon mechanic. At the start of the game, your gun is blessed by the Sorceress and as you play it will randomly change. The quality of your new weapon is determined by the new combo meter which appears at the top of the screen.
This combo meter works in a similar way to how cool points worked in Enter the Gungeon. The longer you can go without getting hit and the more enemies you defeat, the higher the combo gets, and this is most likely to make or break how you feel about Exit the Gungeon. It’s a major difference and it can be awkward playing and suddenly having your gun change. Even if you’re doing well, there’s no guarantee your next weapon is going to be one you enjoy using.
There is an optional setting where you can bring back weapon drops, but they will rely on ammo whereas the blessed gun does not. You’ll also still have the blessed gun as you play and that can make swapping weapons a bit more awkward. It’s a mechanic that will be hit or miss with a lot of people.
Exit the Gungeon is also much easier than Enter the Gungeon. That’s not to say it’s easy – each level is an elevator ride through bullet-hell – but the new format has led to some changes that just allow more room for error.
There are fewer room traps and the enemies will have many of the same attack patterns that they had in Enter the Gungeon, but they won’t fire as many shots since the screen area is more compact. You also will dodge attacks when you jump and you can do a dodge roll while you’re in the air; this effectively doubles your dodge time which is helpful for obvious reasons.
Each area consists of an elevator ride sequence where waves of enemies will continually spawn. Something that I really like about Exit the Gungeon is that each character has their own route to take through the Gungeon, so beating one isn’t the same as beating them all. Anyways, like Enter the Gungeon as you clear the elevator enemies may drop health or items, and once an area is fully cleared there are two things that can happen.
The first and most common is that you’ll stop off at the shop where the grouchy shopkeeper from Enter the Gungeon makes his return. The shop is a little different but follows the same principles. Health items, armor, upgrades, and weapons – assuming you have them enabled – are all available for purchase. The rat that would pick up items you left behind will also be there, but this time as a friend?
He will offer you a key free of charge, and at this point you might be thinking he has turned over a new leaf… wrong!
Turns out he has locked up the characters that you spent all of Enter the Gungeon freeing. From here on out you’ll need to buy keys from him if you want to free the rest. The only annoying thing about this is that he doesn’t spawn every time there is a character to free, which means sometimes you’ll be forced to move on without seeing them released. In Enter the Gungeon, you were guaranteed a Buddy Key would drop anytime a friendly NPC spawned, so this is a bit of a step backward.
Back to the shop room though, and there are also a few doors that appear below the teleporter that take you back to the elevator. These doors are the closest you’ll get to a traditional Enter the Gungeon experience. They will spawn a few waves of enemies and once you clear the room a chest may spawn, as well as other items. Thankfully, no keys are needed. These rooms are also where you will find other characters to free and it’s where you’ll find mini-game rooms. The first game I found was a blatant rip-off of Angry Birds that is described as a “totally original game” that would’ve been trademarked, but it turns out you can’t trademark game mechanics. Very informative.
And as expected, each area culminates in a boss fight, some of which are references to the first game. For example, one boss is the Bullet King’s chancellor. I won’t get into it too much but if you’ve played Enter the Gungeon then you’ll know how many of these bosses are going to act and it makes playing through a bit easier. There are new enemies but the game ends with a fight with The Last Dragun – a decayed form of the Dragun from the first game.
A full run will take around 30 minutes to get through – much shorter than Enter the Gungeon where a standard run was anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. I also was able to beat it on my third attempt, whereas it took me days of playing Enter the Gungeon to just make it to the last boss.
Overall, I think Exit the Gungeon on Xbox One is a good game; not quite up to par with Enter the Gungeon but still fun. But I also think it can only be truly enjoyed if you’ve played the original. The caveat is that you might not enjoy Exit the Gungeon as much, which can lead to it feeling like a disappointment. Going into things with the right expectations is key to getting the most out of the game.