Enter the Gungeon Review

Enter the Gungeon

Introduction

I wanted to start off by saying that Enter the Gungeon has a very fun theme. I’ll expand upon that later but that is pertinent information when I continue from this point. The idea of Rogue-likes or even Rogue-lites, as I’ll be calling this game and a few others, is that you load up the game and get one go at getting to the end of the level(s) or game. If you die or lose along the way, you have to start all over and lose all of your progress including levels or items you may have obtained along the way. I find this interesting to a certain extent and one of the first games that I personally noted that worked this way was Binding of Isaac. However, while the gameplay was fun and interesting and the level progression and other mechanics throughout were great and well done, I personally didn’t like the theme. Maybe it was the gross-out aspects with feces and blood and guts and a naked baby-like character that attacks enemies with his tears, but I thought it was disgusting and gross. Not a bad game though, I just didn’t have the taste for it. Enter Enter the Gungeon, and yes the double ‘enters’ at the first of the sentence are intentional. Enter the Gungeon takes a similar approach to the rogue-lite genre that the Binding of Isaac does but it’s theme is that of guns and bullets. Enemies are either bullets of varying caliber, sometimes an actual gun or sometimes a pun on a creature that utilize guns as weapons. Plus the visuals are pretty and the sprites are cute.

Gametype/Genre: Top Down, Rogue-lite, Bullet Hell, Action

Developer: Dodge Roll

Publisher: Devolver Digital

Reviewing: Steam and Playstation 4 versions


Story

With the type of game that Enter the Gungeon is, there isn’t much of a story. The focus of the game is starting from scratch over and over until you know how the different enemies and bosses work and can make it through the game consistently. But there is a story here. As you load up the game, you are shown a series of colorful artworks with text scrawled over it. It tells you that legends are told throughout the galaxy about a distant planet. On this planet a grim fortress stood until a deadly force fell upon the keep bringing it to ruin. It’s said that the ruins of the fortress hold a treasure of impossible power; a gun that can kill the past. After a time the fortress is rebuilt and security is tightened but adventures seeking the treasure risk it all to– and the title drops with the intro music starting in the back ground saying “Enter the Gungeon’. This is a very wonderful intro cinematic that tells you all you need to know before delving into the game along with the very catching introduction music. With that said, you choose 1 or 4 characters each time you decide to delve into the dungeon and these 4 characters all have different reasons to ‘kill their past’ but we aren’t told those outright. In fact, you won’t know what it is they are trying to change about their past until you actually get through all 5 levels of the Gungeon with a given character.

Characters and Visuals

As you load into the game you’ll be given the choice to choose between 4 different characters. You have a Space Marine type character, a Smuggler Pilot, a Convicted Criminal, and a Hunter alongside her trusty dog companion. They’re simply called the Marine, Pilot, Convict, and Hunter and not much else is known about them at the onset other than what their weapons actually say about them. When you select your character you can walk around a hub-type area and talk to a growing cast of NPCs that either give you advice, small quests  or sell you goods that are thrown into the Gungeon below for you to find as you adventure downwards into the fortress. The other 3 characters that you didn’t choose will be standing around and you can simply talk to one of them to switch to that character instead. There is also a little purple-robed fellow who you can talk to to start up coop, but we’ll get to that later.

The Marine has an additional hit he can take with his armor and has faster reloads and steady aim along with a bigger ammo capacity in his starting weapon, thanks to his Marine training and better equipment. He can also call in 1 ammo resupply for any weapon besides his starting weapon, as the ammo on your starting pistol is unlimited and every other gun uses ammo. The Pilot can get slightly better prices at the shops found within the Gungeon, can carry 2 active items, and a lockpick that he can use to unlock a chest without the use of a key, but only once per chest and if it fails it’ll make the chest impossible to open with a key. He also has a laser gun for his starting pistol. The Convict starts with a picture of someone that makes it where hits she takes temporarily increase her damage output. She also has an additional starting weapon in the form of a sawed off shotgun which uses ammo along with her infinite ammo pistol. Along with that she also has a single active item to start in the form of a Molotov Cocktail that she can repeatedly throw into enemies to leave a scorching area of fire with a medium length cooldown afterwards. And finally, my personal favorite character of the bunch, the Hunter. She starts with an additional weapon in the form of a crossbow that has to reload after each shot but each shot packs a decent punch along with her own infinite ammo pistol. She has a passive ball item that is used to represent her dog companion who will follow you around the Gungeon. He can’t fight, he can’t be hurt or die. But he does sometimes, very occasionally find items hidden in rooms after you clear them of enemies. She literally has nothing else and this I feels makes her a little harder to play as she doesn’t have passives to up her reload or aim or give her better prices or carry more active items or have a rage effect like the others. But she has a puppy, c’mon! What’s not to love here?

311690_20160405173019_1This is an absolutely gorgeous pixel art game with cute sprites to represent all the characters, items, guns, and enemies. Each character looks distinct as do the enemies and items. It looks clean though, it definitely looks like a game that was recently released and that a lot of care and love went into designing the artwork and the characters and worlds. You can also see a more accurate representation of what the characters and bosses look like when you encounter a boss in the form of a splash screen, as shown above. I personally really love these screens.

Performance

Usually I’d break down every little thing about the performance and how the visuals affect it but there isn’t much to say here. The game is a 2D, pixel art game utilizing sprites for the characters and all the enemies and items. It’ll run at 60 frames per second at a resolution up to 1080p, though I’ve heard you can push it to 1440p as well. Should run very well even on older machines, at least in theory. There are no graphics options besides screen shake which can be turned up to a ridiculous level to cause the gun fire of your weapon to shake the screen.

Sound Design

The sound design is pretty incredible with the intro music being the most memorable by far. Every stage within the game has it’s own personalized music, however, so if you aren’t that great at the game you may be stuck hearing only the floor 1 or floor 2 themes for a while. I don’t believe each boss has their own theme but I’m pretty sure there is a boss theme per floor. The gun sounds range from pops and bangs to buzzes of electricity and explosions. They sound about how you’d expect but with a lot cartoon flavor. Other sound effects such as rolling through things or little jingles sound wonderful as well.

Gameplay and Mechanics

As stated before, this is a top down bullet hell game. It’s also a rogue-lite. This is a distinction people like to use to say the game is a rogue-like but on the lite side of that. You still have to start completely over when you die no matter how far into the Gungeon you are, even if you are at the final boss, but there are some things that don’t get reset. You earn a currency called Hegemony Credits from killing bosses that you use at the main hub of the game to add a variety of additional weapons and items to the Gungeon. These range from Heart Bottle or similarly themed objects, which gives you an additional heart on top of your starting 3 hearts, which is a godsend as that gives you an additional two hits of damage absorption, to guns and ammo modification items. All of which are thrown into the Gungeon by the shop keeper for you to find in your adventure. Don’t think you can just buy these and go into the Gungeon with loads of hearts and great weapons. There are also quests that you can grab that you must complete while in the Gungeon and turn in to the giving NPC upon dying and returning to the hub again. Oh and there’s a guy who you must find within the Gungeon at the elevator rooms that will repair the elevator allowing you to use it as a shortcut from the hub down to specific floors. But you have to turn in a load of items for him to repair it and allow you to travel  to that floor. These items, thankfully, can be turned in one at a time and are retained between deaths. You do have to repair each floor in order, however, so you can’t just get to the lowest floor and have him repair that one right off the bat.

311690_20160405173026_1While Enter the Gungeon the mechanics are similar to that of the Binding of Isaac, there are a lot of differences. You shoot at enemies who increase in number and increase in strength and variety as you move throughout the floors. They also shoot back. A ton. Bosses will most of the time fill your entire screen with bullets. as is nearly seen above. That’s the one of the first bosses from floor one and bosses will become more powerful and aggressive with even greater floods of bullets as you progress further Thankfully, you do have 2 blanks that are refilled completely each floor. A blank can be used to blow up all enemy bullets on screen and sometimes you can find additional blanks from enemies or throughout the Gungeon, but I wouldn’t bank on replenishing spent blanks and blowing them all before a boss. You can hide behind pillars or even flip over tables that will take a few shots of enemy fire to help give you an edge and avoid enemy fire. One of the singularly most important tools you have at your disposal for getting over some platform puzzles but mostly for dealing with enemy bullets if your dodge roll. The first half of the roll is completely invincible, allowing you to roll through enemy gun fire to avoid being hit. This is a technique you’re gonna need to practice and get used to using as you can control the direction you roll completely but have to commit in the direction you choose to go. You wouldn’t want to roll through bullets into the path of other bullets or indeed roll away from a bullet only to be struck by it upon coming out of the roll. There are a number of different guns, some practical, some silly and weird, and some that fit both bills. They can come in single shot, multi shot, spread shot, rapid fire, or explosive. There’s also a gun that literally shoots the letters spelling out the word “Bullet”, whilst also saying the word “Bullet” as seen above. Activatable items can do things ranging from giving you invincibility to enemy fire, to an ammo drop, to a grenade that you lob at your enemy.

A given floor within enter the Gungeon will be huge, with many rooms to explore and a good 2 or 3 chests to unlock. There will always be a shopkeeper as well. Unless you piss him off by firing a gun in his shop, then he may raise his prices or even leave and never return for that particular run. He sells a number of good items that change each floor and each time you visit the Gungeon so you don’t want that to happen. The floors are procedurally generated and therefore random for that particular floor, but each room that could spawn is meticulously crafted with particular enemies or enemy sets that can spawn within the room upon entering. You’ll probably never have the same layout for floor 1, but you will probably recognize room setups or enemy combinations in particular rooms. Items and chests are also randomized per floor and per run as well. You’ll probably continue to discover new weapons in the shop and in chests even on your first floors. At the end of each floor you’ll encounter 1 out of 2 or 3 bosses that could potentially spawn to fight you. Upon his death, if you managed to avoid taking damage from them at all and that includes shields that may have taken it for you, you will be granted an additional heart piece allowing you to take 2 more enemy hits within the Gungeon. The next room after a boss is an elevator taking you down to the next floor, so you can’t just skip a boss unless you have the elevator shortcuts opened. A note about floor 2, most of your NPCs will be unlocked on this floor. Randomly someone will be locked in a cell on this floor and you must find a cell key to unlock it. If you don’t find it the key during the normal course of exploring, it’ll drop off the boss for floor 2. I believe the first person you can rescue is always the same. One last note is several of the rooms on each floor will have a teleporter which will let you at any point outside of battle teleport around the floor.  You cannot teleport back to a floor you’ve left. Once you leave a floor, you’re done with it.

Each floor will introduce a number of new enemies and stop using some of the previously used enemies. Harder and healthier enemies will show up on higher floors as well. The typical bullet-man enemies will continue to appear as they are your typical enemy but new varieties will begin to appear and they’ll also themselves begin to have more health on higher floors. It’s also possible that enemy variants you encounter more commonly on higher floors may begin to appear on lower floors on future runs, as I’ve begun to run into new enemies on floor 1 and 2 that I would have run into higher up. Each boss is unique and completely different from the last. The way enemies  react is pretty standard in that they’ll move towards you either slowly or quickly while firing at you if you’re visible to them. Some enemies will also either flip over a table to take cover or take cover behind a previously flipped table to avoid your gunfire.

 

Miscellaneous: Multiplayer and Replayability

311690_20160405180454_1This game includes a coop mode. Just connect an additional controller and give it to a friend. Then talk to the little purple robed guy near the group of main characters and he’ll ask if you wanna start coop. Upon saying yes, the second player will take control of the Cultist. He has a little nerf gun as his infinite ammo pistol and a heart cookie he can use to bring back player 1 if player 1 dies. He also has a bandanna that increases his strength if player 1 is dead and he isn’t. A number of changes occur within the game at this point which is that the camera will try to keep both players on the screen at once, meaning it won’t be centered on your character like it is in single player and the camera won’t pan in the direction you move the mouse or move the control stick either. I believe enemies also become slightly stronger, as do bosses but I can’t solidly confirm that within the confines of the game. Chest spawns and money drops do not increase so you and player 2 have to share whatever guns, items or health recovery goods you find.

I think this game could be considered nearly infinitely replayable, with no two runs ever being exactly identical as far as item drops, gun pickups or floor layout. You may get tired of repeatedly running through and then eventually dying, and it’s possible you could become handicapped early on with no gun drops that could be more beneficial towards clearing out rooms or even taking out bosses. But with each run taking anywhere from 5 minutes to maybe 30 minutes if you don’t finish the game, which could take a 50 to 60 minute run, it’s not completely upsetting to have a bad run that takes maybe 10 minutes. With 200 guns and nearly 200 items, this game has a lot to discover. And there are a number of hidden secrets that I’d rather let you discover on your own.


Conclusion

Enter the Gungeon is a rough but infinitely replayable and fun bullet hell, dungeon crawling rogue-lite game. With procedurally generated floors that are filled with rooms that are meticulously crafted but randomly spawned into your run, and run times that last around 5-30 minutes, it’s a quick game to pick up when you have a spare hour or two to have fun but don’t want to commit to something longer or more involved. Enemies become more vicious and more varied as you make your way deeper into the dungeon and zany and fun weapons begin to appear more often as you delve deeper. Shops both inside and outside the Gungeon will supplement your runs in different ways, with the shops in the Gungeon helping you right then and there and shops outside giving you more gun and item choices to find within the Gungeon proper. Lots of secrets abound along with a fantastic and fun but equally challenging coop mode, there should be fun for you or even a friend as well for many many hours. Though the story isn’t much, it’s still here and it’s a good, albeit very uninvolved, premise that helps to build the small world into something bigger. With 200 guns and nearly 200 items to find within, and randomly generated floors no two runs should ever come out the same or look the same. Whether you play with keyboard and mouse or controller, the controls will feel smooth and tight and bosses challenging but fair.

Running at a smooth 60 frames per second at 1080p, or higher or lower if you are on pc and care to change those settings, the game feels amazing and looks amazing too. Being a 2D pixel art game, it feels old school and looks old school while simultaneously looking like something that came out this year. It’s price point is very low but the skill level required for the game may still keep you away from the game, as the screen can literally become filled to breaking with bullets from your enemies. Though the game may only take a theoretical hour to complete for a single character, it may take you many many more hours to get to a skill level, or even get lucky enough to have good weapon drops, to actually finally beat this game. This is a great game to play with a friend or solo and will fill many hours very easily, as the gameplay is very addictive. I’m really looking forward to what Dodge Roll does with this title in the future, whether it’s additional content for this game or a new entry entirely.


Game: Enter the Gungeon

Genre: Top Down, Rogue-lite, Bullet Hell, Action

Platforms: PC, Playstation 4

Reviewed: Steam and Playstation 4

Released: April 5th, 2016 World Wide

Size:  1.1 GB

Retail: $15.00 or regional equivalent

 

Enter the Gungeon was reviewed with a retail copy of the game purchased through Steam and on the Playstation Network Store.

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Bobby King

Bobby King

Founder and Video Game Extraordinaire at Rising Shark
This guy grew up playing Kirby for the NES on his grandmother's lap and has had a passion for games all his life. You'll primarily see reviews and opinion pieces from him. He likes RPGs, both Western and Japanese, action, adventure, brawlers, spectacle fighters and the occasional fighter or shooter; either third-person or first-person.
Bobby King

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About the author

Bobby King

This guy grew up playing Kirby for the NES on his grandmother's lap and has had a passion for games all his life. You'll primarily see reviews and opinion pieces from him. He likes RPGs, both Western and Japanese, action, adventure, brawlers, spectacle fighters and the occasional fighter or shooter; either third-person or first-person.

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