Enter the Gungeon (PC) Review
"Load up and try not to cry your self to sleep. It's time to enter... the gungeon."
As a lifelong gamer, nothing makes me feel small and pathetic quite as much as a game that can just relentlessly kick my ass again and again. A game that can make me “baby rage” out loud to the point of utter embarrassment just makes me feel like I have never quite grown out of the stage of practicing how to shave and inexplicable boners.
Enter the Gungeon
is exactly that type of game.
And I love it.
Enter the Gungeon
is a 2D indie “rogue-lite” shmup that is about one thing: guns. Well two things, really: guns and dying. You will probably be seeing more than your fair share of both.
At its core, Enter the Gungeon
is very simple. You begin by choosing one of four different characters, each with their own different starting guns, items and power-ups. Then you, well, enter the “gungeon,” which is a randomly, procedurally-generated dungeon consisting of five floors, a huge constant flow of enemies, and enough bullets to leave the entire state of Texas in an orgasm-induced coma.
The controls throughout the game are beautifully tight, which is perfect, because you’ll need them to weave in and out of the constant stream to bullets heading your way. Enter the Gungeon
includes some very useful moves, such as the ability to dodge roll through bullets and the ability to use a limited number of “blanks” to immediately destroy all bullets on the screen.
These mechanics together with the fluid movement makes you feel well-equipped to take on whatever flies your way, which in turn makes the game feel fair despite its difficulty.
Not only is movement satisfying, the gungeon has a habit of equipping you with awesome guns, tools, and passives as you delve into its depths. The guns range from realistic shotguns, Uzis and RPGs to futuristic laser guns and plasma rifles to the ridiculous water guns, lowercase r’s and bananas. The best part is that they almost always come with more than enough ammunition to get you to the end of the floor and passed the floor bosses.
Speaking of bosses – and enemies in general – the whole “guns” aesthetic does not stop at your equipment and the word “gungeon.” A good majority of the enemies are based on different types of bullets. In fact, most of them are based on the weapon they use. 9mm bullets use pistols, shotgun shells use shotguns, etc. The bosses (that I’ve seen so far) are all either bigger bullets or classic video game enemies with gun-related puns such as the Gorgun and the Beholster. It all really drives home the gun-based theme that the developers were going for.
One of the big draws to Enter the Gungeon
is that it has perma-death. Once you die, you have to start at the very beginning of the gungeon, no matter how many enemies you’ve slaughtered or floors you’ve cleared. That combined with its frugality in dropping health makes actually beating the game immensely difficult. This gives the game its longevity and makes each run feel significant.
One thing that can be said against Gungeon
is that its system of progression feels extremely slow, especially as you start out. Like many rogue-lites, player progression is accomplished through unlocking upgrades as you play run after run. These upgrades persist even after death, giving you a slightly higher advantage than you had in your previous run. In Gungeon
, these upgrades are few and far between. On top of that, very few upgrades help you as you begin your next run. Instead they usually add something extra that you can randomly run into later in the gungeon. This system makes progression feel slow and discouraging at times.
Enter the Gungeon
uses pixel graphics as their art style of choice. While I admit, I have for the most part grown a bit tired of this overused art style, I also can’t help but appreciate when it is done well. Enter the Gungeon
utilizes the art style so well, that there really is no way to do it otherwise. The pixel graphics give this game an adorable and cute aesthetic that is beautifully juxtaposed against the gritty, violent nature of the gameplay, the characters, and the gun theme as a whole.
The story is incredibly unique and yet again fits the whole gun theme so perfectly that it just shows how much heart and thought went into the development of this game. The gungeon itself is home to a legendary pistol that, when fired, can shoot and kill the past of its wielder. Each of the playable characters seems to have his/her own shady or tragic past that they want to destroy. Up to this point, I still have not been able to beat the game with either of the characters, so I don’t know the full stories for them, but you get tiny glimpses as you play.
The music in Enter the Gungeon
is amazing. It again fits the overall aesthetic of the game by being cute and fast-paced at the same time. It gets the adrenaline pumping during long shootouts and fills the less action-packed travel time with a catchy tune. The soundtrack does feel a bit limited, though, because each floor gets its own music. If you end up like me and struggle to get passed the second floor, you’ll find yourself listening to the same music again and again.
Enter the Gungeon
is a blast of a rogue-lite shmup. The controls and animations feel fluid and genuinely fun. Everything from the art style to the music to the character and enemy design to the story just go together so perfectly. That tightly coherent theme paired with the difficulty give this game a level of depth and longevity that is amazing for a game with only five levels. The amount of crazy guns that you can pick up and play with make it fun to go nuts and shoot everything in sight just for the sake of going nuts and shooting everything in sight. While I can’t say that I have any reasonable hope of actually beating this masochist magnet, I sure as shell have a ton of fun trying.