Enter the Gungeon is a beautiful bullet-hell dungeon-crawler game that has taken inspiration from several other successful series and games such as Binding of Isaac, Dark Souls, D&D, Nuclear Throne, Spelunky and more. The aim was to fuse all the elements of the dungeon crawler genre with the immediacy and speed of a shoot-em-up.
The first thing that caught my attention when I started the game was the beautiful art style and animation. The colour schemes for each room fit perfectly; colourful gardens, bleak ruins, and more. The game combines hand-crafted rooms with procedural generation to create a beautiful labyrinth of death and destruction.
The level design and gameplay is similar to Binding of Isaac, with randomly generated rooms and loot, and directional shooting, although the shooting isn’t dual-stick. The rooms gradually get more and more challenging until you reach the boss room. Don’t expect the first boss to be easy, though. I’ve only managed to get past the first floor a handful of times, and I’ve played a fair number of hours. The gameplay has a ‘Dodge Roll’ mechanic that makes use of invincibility frames. The game developers say they got the idea for the mechanic from Dark Souls.
The Dodge Roll mechanic is the most important mechanic, and needs to be used as often as possible. This is a bullet hell game, and there is going to be a lot of bullets, and minimal room for error. You will need to take advantage of the invincibility frames whenever possible, but will also need to avoid dodge rolling into the path of more bullets. This can start to get quite tricky as you progress further, as the number of enemies in each room steadily increases. However, there is another neat mechanic that can help you when it may not necessarily be a good idea to dodge roll.
If you are near an object like a table, you can kick it on its side to temporarily shield yourself from incoming bullets. However, as the environment has destructible elements, the table will eventually crumble and you will be forced to find more cover. It doesn’t stop there, though. Enemies can also kick tables over to shield themselves, potentially forcing you to expose yourself in order to navigate around the defence.
You can choose from four different heroes: The Marine, The Pilot, The Convict, and The Hunter. Each character has their own set of weapons and abilities. For example, The Marine has faster reload times, but The Convict can pick one lock per level, so you can unlock one extra chest per level and potentially find a better gun or ability, before facing the boss. Because the bosses are challenging, it gives you a reason to explore every last room, to try and find that one weapon or ability that could potentially increase your chances of surviving.
The loot and rooms are procedurally generated, meaning no two runs are the same. The game developers also claim that the game “responds to even the most modest victory against its sentries and traps by raising the stakes and challenges”. To me, this sounds like it has adaptive difficulty; the better you do, the harder it gets.
This adaptive difficulty is a great way to keep you playing, striving to get better and better, so you can proceed further and further into the Gungeon, with the goal of reaching “The gun that can kill the past”. According to the developers, each character has their own unique final boss that you have to beat to acquire “the gun that can kill the past”. However, just beating the game isn’t enough; in order to unlock these past scenarios, you first have to construct a special bullet.
In conclusion, Enter the Gungeon is a fun, beautiful, and challenging blend of the bullet-hell, dungeon crawler, and shoot-em-up genres. It has taken inspiration from a range of games and series to create a nice blend of gameplay mechanics, challenging difficulty, and fast-paced action.