Enter the Gungeon is a top down action title developed by Dodge Roll. The game originally launched on PC and later PS4 last year, and just finally arrived for the Xbox One this month. Enter the Gungeon draws inspiration from games like Rogue Legacy and (most notably) The Binding of Isaac. Full of randomly generated dungeons, epic weapons, and reflex intensive action, Enter the Gungeon is a challenging experience for action game fans. Does it manage to stay entertaining for long stretches, or wind up being a Binding of Isaac clone? Let’s take a closer look.
Forward Unto the Gungeon
Enter the Gungeon is a game that’s all about gradual organic progression. Instead of following a linear path, Enter the Gungeon tasks you with entering a multi leveled dungeon. This dungeon changes with every subsequent playthrough, randomly generating a new layout as you enter.
The game has four main “gungeoneers”, warriors who have dark pasts to deal with. The fabled Gungeon is said to contain a gun that, when assembled, can kill the past. You choose from one of the four gungeoneers, each with their own starting weapon, as well as unique active and passive abilities. You can choose from the Marine, Pilot, Convict, or Hunter. Additional gungeoneers unlock over time, each more exciting than the last. Choosing a gungeoneer also lends to varied gameplay, as some characters are more about speed and timing than brute force. Additionally, some of the later characters change up combat in completely new ways.
The Battle of Bullets
Visually speaking, Enter the Gungeon feels both retro and modern at the same time. It’s a sentiment I bring up quite often, but it’s something Gungeon pulls off quite well. The actual models and textures are reminiscent of the 16-bit era, comprised of colorful pixel art. Thanks to this distinct art style, it’s easy to keep track of the action when things get hectic.
The gungeon itself is broken up into five main floors, each with their own theme. Early floors see our hero dodging and shooting through a castle setting, and later dank caves. Although rooms are randomly generated, they have a good amount of detail and care baked into them. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into crafting the assets for each generated room, as you’ll never come across one with a sloppy layout.
The most striking thing about Enter the Gungeon is its firearm fetish, apparent in everything from enemy design to aesthetic. Everything in the game is some sort of play on guns. It’s a surprisingly efficient way of distinguishing enemy types and items. For example, it’s easier to tell the shotgun wielding enemies from the rest, as they are literally large shotgun shells. The puns and descriptive designs only get better over time, showcased in floor-ending boss battles. Bosses are impressive and varied, never on a set rotation. As you enter a boss room, you’ll never be 100% sure what boss awaits you. From the royal “Bullet King”, the twin bullet “Trigger Twins”, and the giant snake “Ammocondoa”, each boss is both a platform for entertaining design and unique experiences.
Empty Clip, Reload
Enter the Gungeon is a rogue-like first and foremost. Like Binding of Isaac, the name of the game is repetition. You pick your gungeoneer, enter the gungeon, and fight until you die. Along the way, you’ll rescue different characters who open up various features that help you along the way. You always start your gungeon runs at base minimum, only equipped with your gungeoneer’s starting gear. In your first hour or so, there’s not much to do besides run through the game and get a good handle on it.
Making your way through each floor is an affair of exploration and action. You’ll start in an empty room after being brought down by an elevator, left to explore each floor and find the boss door. Progressing through each floor and discovering the layout is an enjoyable experience, albeit a bit difficult at times. You’ll find keys that unlock chests, pick up empty shells to use at the merchant, and kill a whole lot of enemies. Chests and the merchant give you the opportunity to pick up new weapons, items, and passive abilities. These will only stay with you until you die, and there’s often an element of luck to what you’ll find. This can be a double edged sword, sometimes leading to runs where you just can’t catch a break. Other times, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a great run with tons of insanely good weapons and gear.
Slowly, you’ll discover characters locked in prison cells or hidden away on various floors. When rescued, some of these characters return to the starting area, allowing you access to their feature. Some characters open shops that add new guns and items to find during play, while others offer small challenges for reward. These additional objectives make the repetition of the the gameplay cycle bearable, ensuring you always have some sort of focus.
The Bottom Line on Enter the Gungeon
Enter the Gungeon is a good time, there’s no doubt about that. I would’ve preferred the ability to upgrade your base gear like other rogue-likes, but the experience was able to stay refreshing without it. The best part of Enter the Gungeon is the constant state of reward. Defeating bosses gives you currency to unlock new guns, and new guns come quick and often. Each run is fresh but familiar, slowly allowing you to build a strategy but still surprising you with new features.
To that point, it might take quite a bit of time to see all that Enter the Gungeon has to offer. With multiple characters that have their own stories and endings, and an insane amount of unlockable items and weapons, there’s no shortage of content. The main gameplay loop might be off putting to some, mainly due to the repetition. However, if you’ve played games like The Binding of Isaac, you’ll feel right at home with Enter the Gungeon. It’s a game that’s all about dodging screen filling waves of bullets, discovering new strategies, and learning as you play. I’m a fan of that kind of game, but I could see not everyone enjoying it. The inherent level of difficulty required to reach late game content might cause some frustration, but players who enjoy a good challenge won’t bat an eye.
For the right player, Enter the Gungeon presents a challenging experience full of content and discovery. To others, it’s just a tough game with only five level types. If you’re a fan of the rogue-like genre, Enter the Gungeon is an easy recommendation.