Enter The Gungeon has been near the top of the Steam best-seller list for the past couple days, and I get why: it’s the type of roguelike shooter you can lose hundreds of hours to. Also the enemies are bullets. You get to kill bullets... with bullets.
Enter The Gungeon is a roguelike (or roguelite, if you prefer). It follows the formula established by games like, well, Rogue and polished to a more action-oriented sheen by recent hits like The Binding of Isaac and Nuclear Throne. You have one life. Your goal? Nothing too crazy, just to beat the entire game without dying.
In Gungeon, this means traversing a—brace for the impact of a revelation damn near biblical in its proportions—gun-themed dungeon, amassing a stockpile of ridiculous guns, barely surviving shootouts in randomly ordered (but still handcrafted!) rooms, beating bosses, and ultimately retrieving a gun that can KILL THE PAST. You will probably not accomplish this on your first try. You might not even do it on your fiftieth. The goal, though, is to slowly improve, learning the ins and outs of various enemies and bosses and, of course, figuring out what hundreds of guns do.
It’s great. It’s also tough as nails... that are stapled to bullets. On my first run, I made it to a floor’s boss (the ripped AF Gatling Gull, aka The Mountain That Flies), only to be drowned in a hail of feathers, bullets, and bombs. On my second run, I made it to the third room of the first floor, comically far away from a boss encounter. RNJesus giveth, and RNJesus taketh away.
What really makes Enter The Gungeon great, though, is the amount of care that was clearly put into, well, pretty much everything about it. This is exemplified by the combat, which despite bullet hell elements, feels less like Binding of Isaac or Nuclear Throne and more like a John Woo flick. You can do a leaping dodge-roll, which renders you briefly invincible and, perhaps more importantly, awesome. Meanwhile, the game’s environments are full of destructible scenery, tables you can kick over for cover, chandeliers you can drop on Bullet Bill and Ted (or whoever else), and explosive barrels you can boot into crowds of enemies.
The end result? Rapid-fire encounters where every move counts. Sometimes, you end up getting moments that are—to again draw this comparison—like a John Woo movie, except without slow-mo and I assume all the doves are dead or in hiding. I mean, look at this:
Gunfights leave rooms in absolute tatters. Scraps of paper, splinters of wood, and spent bullets (only some of whom were previously sentient) everywhere. They’re equal parts tense and intense, until suddenly they’re over and you find yourself in desperate need of a cigarette even though you’ve never smoked in your life. It all feels amazing, too.
Oh, and then there are all the little details: Every gun has a clever, usually silly backstory you can read about in what’s essentially a Pokedex, but for guns. There’s heaps of clever dialogue if you know where to look. One of the main characters has a corgi that follows her around. One of the guns fires bees. Another is musical.
After a few hours with the game, it’s tough to find too many holes in its bullet-proof armor. Sometimes the randomness feels a bit unfair (see: my aforementioned first and second run), but it’s usually pretty reasonable. The game’s roster of playable characters is only several-strong, and a couple of them are kinda boring to play in the early goings of a run. Also, Gungeon takes aim at a major pet peeve of mine: you can’t skip the mini-cut-scenes that accompany each boss. Pretty sure there’s a circle in Game Developer Hell dedicated to that shit. Just saying.
All in all, though, Enter The Gungeon is excellent. If you, like me, are prone to losing yourself to roguelites, roguelikes, roguelike-likes, or rogue like-likes for days or weeks on end, it’s well worth the $15 entry fee. Now then, I’m off to get my ass kicked by The Gorgun again. PUNS.