I’m a sucker for old-school shooters. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve invested in Nuclear Throne without actually reaching the damn throne until, yes, finally achieving it. And even then, I went back in for more, because why the hell not? You live for this sort of thing and make every bullet count. And that, friends, is why I can appreciate such a good game as Enter the Gungeon.
This game is all about using twin-stick skills – one for movement and one for aiming – as you make your way through a trap-filled dungeon, shooting up enemies like mad while scavenging for new guns, surviving over-the-top boss battles and seeing what you can unlock for your hard-earned efforts. That is, unless you die – in which case you have to do this all over again. Prepare for frustration.
That’s probably the biggest setback about Enter the Gungeon – the fact that if you do bite the big one, all your progress goes with it, and you’ll have to start back from square one. Then again, that may be a factor that pushes you to survive as long as you can, using tactics like the “dodge roll” (hence the company name, probably) and creating temporary cover out of tables and other objects to keep your health in one piece until you find a refill or pick up something from the shop.
Despite this frustrating factor, though, I loved Gungeon. It reminded me of all those old-school NES games that require you to go for an all-or-nothing approach to combat – where even the slightest mistake has you starting back from square one. And I mean the good ones, not the crappy games that were impossible due to a poor control scheme.
Part of Gungeon’s appeal lies in its control scheme. It’s absolutely wonderful when it comes to picking your proper weaponry and putting it to good use, while also developing some incredible defensive skills to try and stay in one piece. It’s an old-school shooter, but with new-school sort of logic, and it really pays off as you develop a beyond-standard play style that will help you eventually get to the final stage. Y’know, if you don’t suck first.
The variety of weapons have a big pay-off as well. Some of the guns are absolute sweet, like a half-machete, half-projectile shooting cannon that’s good for clearing out a room. I mean, some are lame – what the hell a super soaker is doing here is beyond me – but for the most part, the variety is more than enough to keep you coming back for more.
There’s also a co-op mode, but not in the traditional sense. Basically, the second player steps in like a helpful mage, providing assistance with the main player as they fend off survival. A competitive mode would’ve been really great here, considering the play tactics, but I’ll certainly take this, as it’s a good time with your buddy on the couch. (And I mean that in a Gungeon way, you freaks – mind outta the gutter there.)
The rest of Gungeon’s appeal lies in Dodgeroll’s presentation, which is splendid. The retro graphics are very well done, and the variety of enemies is surprisingly good, from bullets that shoot bullets at you (WHOA) to large birds with a gatling gun. Sometimes enemies can repeat, but they always offer some form of challenge for you to get over. The music’s very good as well, nicely composed and adding a fun little factor to the overall action.
I just wish there were more characters. The ones that are included here are a treat, and each have their own reason to enter the Gungeon (or worse yet, shoot at the heavily armed shopkeeper – IDIOTS), but there’s only a handful of them. Perhaps more will be added via DLC, but for now, it’s an okay count, but more could’ve been done.
No matter, it’s not quantity that counts here, but quality. Despite the small setbacks, Enter the Gungeon is one of the year’s bigger surprises, a game that accepts old-school mentality with fresh gameplay and wonderful elements that will keep you coming back for more. Even if you die and manage to lose it all. Hey, tough it up, kids. This is how we had it back in the NES days.