Enter The Gungeon Review (PC)
We’ve all made mistakes and have regrets. For most of us, there’s nothing within our own power to go back and make things right. But what if we could? Dodge Roll poses and answers this question in the same breath with Enter the Gungeon’s end goal -- a gun that can kill the past. That’s just a little slice of the story though. Beyond that, nothing much is told to you up front. You’ll learn the rest of this twin-stick shooter’s history talking to NPCs, fighting enemies, and deciphering the fabled Ammonomicon.
A twin-stick shooter with roguelike elements, Enter the Gungeon sets itself apart from others like it by allowing more freedom of control. If you’re familiar with twin-stick shooters, than the basic controls will come secondhand. If you’re not, then the tutorial introduces you to Manuel, or Manny, who teaches you the basics of the game while leading you into the more advance techniques of dodge rolling and timing, flipping tables for cover, and using items called “blanks” to dispel any enemy fire. You will carry these skills with you into the titular Gungeon on your quest to find the aforementioned gun.
Set inside a gigantic castle that is clearly in a state of disrepair, you venture forth onto the first floor of the Gungeon. Here is where the roguelikes elements start to come into play. Every time you enter the Gungeon, the layout of the floor is different, the guns and powerups you can pick up vary, and the spawn points of enemies are randomized. This means you have to stay on your toes at all times. Walking bullet men will encircle you firing revolvers and shotguns, or a knight will slam his sword into the ground unleashing a wake of bullets careening toward you.
What truly makes this game special is what you use to dispose of these creatures. A wide array of arms are scattered about in chests you’ll discover. Any weapons you uncover can be employed in your seemingly never-ending quest. From real world guns, like the M-1 or Makarov, to the more fantastical like Lower Case r, a gun shaped like it’s namesake that shoots the letters B-U-L-L-E-T and says “BULLET” when you fire it, or the Light Gun, modeled after the NES Zapper which shoots laser beams and expends the final round by firing an 8-bit duck that bores into enemies, there are plenty of weapons to learn how to use and master.
Mastering these weapons is crucial because this game is difficult with a capital “D,” though Enter the Gungeon is not unforgiving. It has all the trappings of a roguelike, such as once you die, you must start again at the top and losing all the prior mentioned powerups you’ve found. There are a few welcome exceptions to the roguelike rules though, like a special shop where you use credits for new unlocks, helping a man repair an elevator that will allow you to skip levels, and teleport pads on each floor that help you get around a given floor easier.
Each level has a boss at the end waiting for you behind a massive bullet shaped door. On one of my excursions I came across a gigantic bird nest hosting a minigun. Swooping down from seemingly nowhere, a bird picked up the minigun, landed wearing it, and flexed so hard that his feathers exploded off of him exposing a ripped, muscular frame. I ably snuffed him out with a T-Shirt Cannon. Yes, like the kind they use at basketball games to give out free t-shirts. It was a thing of beauty and poetic in a sense.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ridiculous comedic nature of this game. There are many pop culture references, but not so many that they bog down Gungeon’s humor. The world you inhabit and the enemies you fight are absurd all on their own. Walking bullets carrying guns, flying bullets with bat wings, or ghosts wielding AK-47s all stand in your way. And that’s all just on the first floor.
Done in exquisite pixel art, Enter the Gungeon shows what can be done in the medium when it’s not beholden to the nostalgic pixel art era of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Explosions are especially sharp after seeing the dust particles spread around. Displayed isometrically, character animations are impressive as they dodge roll around giving a sense of perspective. Accompanying you along the way is a rocking electronic soundtrack. The opening theme is a catchy little number that, probably, much like me you will be singing to yourself even when you’re not playing the game.
Bring it all together and you have a wonderful, demanding but rewarding, roguelike twin-stick shooter where the visuals connect with the gameplay and the music is getting you pumped to shoot more bullets at bullets. Enter the Gungeon does a good job of explaining its mechanics via tutorial and Ammonomicon, making it great first for anyone looking to get into this burgeoning genre. It doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to table, but what it does bring is extremely well done.
This review was completed using a digital download of Enter the Gungeon provided by the publisher for PC.