Enter The Gungeon is a game that I felt like I should like. After finally playing it, I found that I actually do like it a lot.
Enter The Gungeon is a top-down roguelike that plays similarly to Binding of Isaac, except Gungeon is focused on speed and reflexes, with a heavy emphasis on bullet hell gameplay. Players start levels in an entrance room, and move from room to room, taking on a group of benemies in each room. On each level, the player will find a shop where they can buy a weapon or an item from the money they picked up in the level, and hope that the item or weapon will help them as they progress. They will also find treasure rooms, with a treasure that is sometimes free to open, other times locked, and there are a myriad of other secrets in the game, if the player is patient enough to find them out. So yes, it plays a lot like Bindng of Isaac, except its faster, and there’s less humor revolving around feces, which I fully appreciate.
The game starts out slowly and simply enough, allowing the player to grab their barrings, and get into the flow of the game, but soon players will find themselves completely zoned in the game, fighting enemies and dodging bullets, improvising every motion and reacting to everything the game throws their way, giving someone zero time to think of the next thing to do, or even to blink, for blinking will take too much attention away from the game and lead to failure.
At least, that’s how I got sucked into the game. My first play through was very slow and methodical. I didn’t do very well. It was as if my taking my time allowed the game to take advantage and exploit my weakness of not moving fast enough. But after my fourth or fifth run through, I fully adapted, taking enemies as quick as possible, and diving across rooms with ease and a strange, strong sense of control. There’s a whole lot to pay attention to at all times, and a good run will take all of your attention, and will require sharp eyes and a sharp mind.
When I first saw the game in action, I assumed it would play like any other bullet hell game, where the smallest, menial enemies could be taken out in one hit, and easily. In fact, even though the game features a lot of guns, it felt more like a beat ‘em up than a shoot ‘em up; the shooting is purely aesthetic. Many of the rooms contained only a few enemies, three or four, and they still required a certain number of hits. Soon it became clear that I had to hit an enemy a certain amount of times before I took them down, and there was certainly a pattern to everything.
Though the action is frenetic. Upon entering any room, the action is already on. The player has zero time to plan out their action, they need to start moving, and start shooting. They’ll improvise along the way, but there is rarely any time for sitting, thinking, planning, and observing.
My first few runs met with disaster all too soon. I couldn’t even beat the first boss. The first time I ran into the second boss, I lasted just a few seconds. But the more I played, the more I became comfortable with the pace of the game, the dodge maneuvers, and the silliness of the weapons, that at some point, I breezed through the first three levels entirely, effortlessly avoiding the barrage of bullets from bosses.
The game can be pretty frustrating, potentially to a point that your entire play-through will be ruined. Like Isaac, (Please forgive the constant comparisons, it’s unfortunately inevitable) the weapons and items are completely randomized, so it’s possible to start the game off with excellent weapons and items that will help push you through the game, or you’ll end up with useless weapons and items, and you’ll end up getting hit right off the bat. When that happens, it’s very easy to get beat up during the first boss, simply because you don’t anything that will really do any damage. There’s been one time that I fought the first boss with my beginning weapon, a little pea shooter that I’m happy with using during the rest of the level. There’s also been one time, and only one time, that, halfway through the first level, I hit pause and then the restart button, starting over completely. I took too much damage, and found too few weapons, that carrying on just didn’t feel worth it.
Some players, like the gal who reviewed it for Gamespot, doesn’t like the way the game gives out its weapons. Each run-through starts the player off with a weak pea-shooter, and the player picks up new, randomized weapons as they play, and sometimes those weapons are excellent, or they’re not very good at all. Some players seem to prefer that they pick up powerful weapons, and they hold on to that each time they start up the game.
Personally, I disagree. I’m perfectly fine if the game doesn’t give me super powerful weapons right off the bat. Once I beat the first boss, the game is set, and whatever weapon I have is the weapon I have, my success is completely dependent on how I maneuver the levels, and how I avoid the bullets from the other enemies. I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t even look at the enemies, I’m focused entirely on my own dude, watching where bullets come in, and constantly improvising routes to avoid them. My defeating enemies mostly falls on faith; I’m counting on them disappearing eventually. Same goes for bosses, I just keep a mental tab on where they’re located, shoot in that general direction, and run through the bullet hell, and dive when necessary.
For me, the game is all about speed and reflexes. It is not about picking up a powerful weapon and letting it do all the work. It’s about skill, and aim. You may get lucky and pick up a powerful weapon early on that wipes out all the enemies, which is fine. Myself, I could care less. I’m happy if I get a shotgun and an automatic weapon.
Though the game is definitely intended to be played in short bursts. Play any longer than an hour at any time, and the game gets boring and repetitive, and feels more like a chore. Jump in once, beat some bad guys, and then put it down and finish your Dickens novel. I can imagine that’s why most reviewers decide they dislike the game, because they put so much time into it that the game becomes so boring. This I can understand, because I’m definitely had to put it down after getting burnt out quickly.
I haven’t felt this connected to a game in quite a while. There is certainly a lot of creativity in the game. Sometimes the weapons will allow you to do combo moves. One weapon fired little balls that left some weird fluids on the ground. Then I switched over to my fireball gun, and the fire lit the fluids on fire. So yes, play around the guns, use some creativity, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.