Enter the Gungeon is a face paced dungeon crawler from developer Dodge Roll. In a genre already saturated it is sometimes difficult to find a diamond in the rough when it comes to twin stick shooters but here we most certainly have one. As is the standard form with games of this ilk the story is cookie cutter and doesn't do anything other than to give the game a contextual reason to exist. Here we simply seek a gun so powerful it can kill the past. So how does the all important gameplay pan out? Let's have a look.
Bullets and guns are the themes to this game where many of the enemies are also bullets of sorts, from 9mm rounds to 306 rifle rounds: even your health is represented by two small red bullets that make the shape of a heart.
The idea for ETG is a simple one, pick a character and start shooting. You play through levels that comprise of a number of interconnected rooms and corridors which are procedurally generated. As you enter a room the enemies in that room will try and kill you, when you have defeated them you absorb the bullets they drop and the doors open. You can come across a whole manner of rooms, most will contain hostiles but then some will have chests, NPCs or even a shop to spend the game's currency: you guessed it - bullets. The rooms are littered with destructible items and furniture including tables that can be kicked over for cover and barrels that explode under fire. I have seen enemies use these tables as cover and even saw one enemy stop and shoot a barrel I was near. I have to say the sheer variation in enemies here is fantastic and deserves special praise. Not only in design but how they attack you. Some will simply open up at you while trying to gain a better firing position and these early mobs are small fry compared to the foes you face later on. One will fire a shower of bullets that embed in the walls and then re-aim at your new location to fire again. Others will use teleportation, explosives and a whole range of bullet attack patterns. This is one area that ETG really does stand heads and tails above the rest in the competition.
'Gimme the weapon!'
The guns are the star of the show and this is not only measured by the number in the game but also by how utterly unhinged some are. Guns that fire words, guns that play a tune when you reload, guns that fire ships, anvils, bees, dirty washing (???). Hell, I've even had a Ghostbusters Proton Pack and a gun called Deck4rd: The Unicorn of Handguns.
I love how they have poured hundreds and hundreds of weapons into the game but each has been crafted by hand with their own little story. Procedurally generated content is awesome but sometimes you want that personal touch and I have to take my hat off to the developers on this score because they absolutely nailed it. It is also just worth mentioning that you also pick up passive gear and usable equipment which can be as batshit as the guns themselves.
Bosses that are Boss
You can find the boss access door almost right away but any self-respecting Gungeoner knows that you first need to scour the level for loot and secrets. However what awaits you when you finally step into the church and weigh in again the end level boss? Short answer: Pain. Every level has a selection of bosses that will be randomly chosen and each has their very own distinct way of ending your run and taking all that hard-won loot. Some come in pairs, some fill the chamber with so many bullets there is hardly any visible floor space and as well as many other tricks I don't want to spoil for you. This game really does earn the tag 'bullet hell'.
Once a boss does finally take a dirt nap they do drop a whole manner of loot and one item, in particular, are green shards that you can spend outside the dungeon to unlock weapons (which then have a chance of appearing in subsequent runs). So while the game ends when you die this is a nice way to feel your efforts were not entirely wasted: but permadeath is permadeath after all.
When I saw the trailer for ETG I assumed it would have co-op, but on playing the game I was blown away by the fact the only co-op is local. Surely this game was made for two or more people to play right? Then a friend mentioned a few other similar games and pointed out that they too have omitted co-op play across the Internet. I have also put this out to a few people on the forums and some have suggested that latency may be the reason: that a game that requires zero lag could not work with even minor delays in connection. I'm not really qualified to challenge this idea but my reaction was 'really?" We've been playing games across the Internet for decades now and most gamers have connections faster than Usain Bolt on his best day.
I will say that the rooms you play through are fairly snug and maybe a few other players unleashing rapid-fire nukes could be just be too much. Moreover, more than two players would require the game to intelligently scale up and this would require some work. I understand that to some Indie developers every second spent on the game can be expensive. The bottom line is if we could make it work (and scale) two to four players would be something that could make this one of the best co-op games currently out there.
Enter the Gungeon is one of the finest titles of it's kind I've played in a long time and I would only consider Nuclear Throne on an equal footing. If I'm honest I have not played The Binding of Isaac so maybe I should? For the very reasonable price of £9.89 you get a lot of game here and due to the permadeath element plenty of replay value. I will say that after a few hours the games music did get a bit repetitive and but as I usually play games to my own music this was not a problem for me.
There isn't much more I can say about ETG really, I see its gameplay being accessible to all but the weakest of players but please do come to this title wearing your big boy pants because it is tough. As usual, there are calls on various forums for it to be made easier as well as made more difficult. I tend to think these posts are futile because the game is what it is and games should not be made to try and cater for every level of player: you run the risk of making a game that satisfies no one. So assuming you like fast paced shooting game I cannot recommend Enter the Gungeon enough.