Review: Enter the Gungeon

gungeon title card

I’ve spent a countless number of hours playing Enter the Gungeon. It’s up there among my favorite rogue-lite games, right next to the Binding of Isaac games and Spelunky. For this reason, I thought it’d be fitting to write my thoughts on one of my favorite games for the PS4. There are still some faults found in the game, but let’s get on with the review!

 

Enter the Gungeon is a downloadable game packed with charm, intelligent design, and satisfying gameplay wrapped up in one (mostly) tight package. As the title implies, players enter a randomly generated dungeon (or as it is known here, a gungeon) utilizing a vast array of guns to overcome enemies and obstacles. Assuming the role of an adventurer with a past they regret, you enter the gungeon hoping to attain a legendary gun that can kill the past. Yes, you read that right, your goal is to kill the past. Specifically, your character’s past. The game’s trailer emphasizes this point, if you’d like to hear it for yourself. I’ll link the gameplay trailer right here.

gungeon entrance

Based on this trailer alone, I was sold on Gungeon’s premise. All that remained to win me over was a solid gameplay loop, and I’m happy to report that the game succeeds on that front. There is a massive variety of guns that can be collected across many hours of gameplay, with a solid number of passive and active items available to spice up each run. The number of weaponry available to players is staggering, and with the game’s free supply drop update that went live a few months ago, there are even more choices available. Collecting these different guns is a joy of its own, thanks to their creative utility and fun design choices. Chests filled with loot are peppered on each floor of the gungeon, ensuring you access to a wide variety of fun weaponry.

 

The game features the expected ensemble of base weaponry, including handguns, shotguns, rifles, machine guns, and other traditional guns that we have come to expect. However, the game’s wacky and inventive munitions is where it truly shines. For example, one of my favorite guns in the game is called the Shell. This is a gun that resembles a shotgun shell, and when fired, it pops out three shotguns, which proceed to fire two bullets from those shotguns. The in-game description of this weapon reads: “This strange gun, shaped like a shotgun shell, fires bullets that are shaped like shotguns. Those shotgun-shaped bullets will fire a spray of rounds upon impact, much like a shotgun would.” Another example of the unique weaponry involves the Witch Pistol, which fires bullets that have a 10% chance of turning the hit enemy into a chicken. Or how about the Magic Lamp, a gun that is a literal lamp which causes a genie to emerge and sucker-punch any enemies that are unfortunate enough to cross his path. This is just a few examples from the list of over 130 guns that are available to collect and use against enemies. The creative ideas at play here are a riot, and I loved discovering new weaponry and items every time I played the game.

gungeon supply drop update card

Similar in fashion to other rogue-lites, killing all of the enemies in a room will unlock the doors stopping the player’s progression, and award them currency that can be used at the in-game shop. Every character and enemy you run across during the journey through the Gungeon has a unique personality that gives a sense of depth to the game’s world, even if the randomly-generated levels have layouts that are recognizable after a dozen or so runs through.

 

Unlocking certain features outside of the Gungeon is accomplished by helping NPC’s during a run, similarly accomplished like in Crypt of the Necrodancer, and gives the game a path of upgradability to the player’s hub world that is satisfying and rewarding. However, I still felt like I was given enough utility to overcome most obstacles, even in the early game or if my gun loadout was lacking compared to previous runs. This is another thing that I think Enter the Gungeon does very well; it balances a level of progression with player skill, avoiding the ever-popular “RNG issue” (RNG stands for random number generator) that affects other rogue-lite games such as The Binding of Isaac. In Isaac, if you play a run of the game that gives you crappy upgrades at the beginning, you feel at a severe disadvantage against the game’s obstacles, and are thus tempted to restart that run from the beginning. In Gungeon, this feeling is nearly absent, because the starting weaponry given to you is quite good, at least for the game’s first two floors. During your time after those two floors, you are pretty much guaranteed to find even better weaponry than your starting guns, helping balance the game’s difficulty without feeling too easy or difficult.

gungeon gatling gull

On the subject of comparisons to other rogue-lite games, I think the boss fights in Gungeon and Isaac should be compared. In Isaac, most of the boss fights can be beaten relatively quickly, even without any damage upgrades. In Enter the Gungeon, this is simply not the case. Even with a better arsenal at your disposal, boss fights are still the most lengthy and difficult challenge you will come across. This should be expected. However, I think the boss fights could stand to be a bit shorter, especially in the early game when your weapons are usually not as strong as during the late game. When fighting bosses with your default guns, which can be normal during the first or second floors, the fights feel like they can take ages to beat. This makes the battle feel like a drag instead of the exciting conclusion to a floor that it should be. Despite this, I found most of the boss fights to feel fair and fun, especially when you learn the boss patterns and effectively dodge their attacks. There’s a couple of bosses that I think are unfairly difficult, namely the Ammoconda (oh yeah, all of the bosses have fun gun-centric names to accompany their unique designs!), but most of the boss fights feel fair, if on the long side.

gungeon bullet king battle

With a cast of memorable characters, a bevy of awesome weaponry to collect, and an engaging gameplay loop that makes you want to play just one more round, Enter the Gungeon is one of my favorite rogue-lite games. The art style is pleasing and the enemy designs all fit within the game’s world. Although the boss fights could stand to be a bit shorter, the entire package provides a wonderful experience that I think is among publisher Devolver Digital’s best games yet. Once Enter the Gungeon releases on Nintendo Switch, I’ll be there day one to play through all of it again!

gungeon switch

Thank you for reading, and have a great weekend.

  • Matt
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