The setup of Enter the Gungeon is as simple as its punny title might suggest: Everything's a gun, or at least gun-related. All the main weapons are guns. All the enemies shoot guns. Currency is shell casings. Your quest is to find a super-special gun that can kill your troubled past. Common enemies are large, sentient bullets that fire normal-sized versions of themselves from their normal-sized weapons. Gun lust at this magnitude puts AAA shooters to shame.
Here's what I liked:
Bullet heck – The core gameplay loop is fantastic. It's twin stick shooter controls feel slick and responsive, making running and gunning a thrill. You have a dodge roll, which you can use to hurl yourself into cover or vault over projectiles. You can also interact with the world by pressing A, which mainly is used to flip tables to create cover, but has other uses such as rolling barrels and flipping switches. Finally, there's the Blank, a super-move that destroys all enemy projectiles on the screen, throws nearby enemies backward and opens up secret passageways. The game is also tough as nails – while it starts out simple enough, before long it becomes a full-on bullet-filled nightmare. Boss battles are the obvious highlight; they're by far the toughest moments of the game as they fill the screen with an unimaginable amount of firepower. The game doesn't play around from the get-go; while it's easy to grasp it's almost impossible to master.
Guns, guns, guns – This game is loaded with weapons, and does surprisingly well at making them all feel unique. There are the standard variables, from the rate of fire to reload times, but it's when you find something more unusual that the game gets good. There's everything from old-fashioned muskets to massive lasers to ants that shoot fire, just to name a scant few. The game features four characters, each having a unique starting gun with infinite ammo, and anything else you find will have limited ammo. Guns aren't the only things you can pilfer, as there's also a plethora of active and inactive abilities to find. These range from throwable weapons to health packs to every type of buff imaginable. Every character has a unique starting loadout of a few weak abilities as well, making each feel gently skewed towards certain playstyles. Each level has a few goodies hiding somewhere, plus a store to spend your hard-earned cash, yet it will be some time before you see the same loot twice. Every chest you find is a gift of death-dealing goodness that could potentially make your current run a whole lot easier.
Here's what i didn't like:
Gungeon crawling – While Enter the Gungeon is fun, it brings nothing new to the randomized roguelike genre. It feels very much in the same vein as The Binding of Isaac and the glut of similar games that followed. Enter a room, clear the enemies, rinse and repeat until your inevitable death. Each requires a lot of exploring to see all its rooms, which is unfortunate because enemy and environmental variety is lacking. The game does combat these problems in certain ways, from being able to teleport to previously visited rooms to a wide variety of enemy layouts, but that doesn't stop things from feeling same-y and overly long. After a few playthroughs things start to feel tedious, specifically the first couple levels where you're more likely to see all their possibilities. It kind of ruins the "just one more game" mentality this game should be thriving on.
Despite playing for hours on end I never got particularly good at Enter the Gungeon, but that doesn't mean I didn't thoroughly enjoy my time with it. It's great as a top-down shooter, even if it's just average as a roguelike. Pairing the frustration of bullet hell with the frustration of a random number generator doesn't always yield results, but when the stars align there's just something magical about it.
Score: Reader's Choice