Indie Innovations: Enter the Gungeon
Hello everyone and welcome back to this week’s edition of Indie Innovation! This week, I’ll be looking at the critically acclaimed “Enter the Gungeon”, a bullet hell roguelike game by Washington D.C.-based developer Dodge Roll. Merging two genres is always a very risky endeavor, and, more often than not, it doesn’t deliver. Enter the Gungeon is thankfully not one of those examples, seamlessly blending a bullet hell arcade shooter with the consequences and difficulty of a roguelike, creating an engaging experience you’ll want to jump back into after every death.
One of the first aspects that I noticed in this game was it’s hysterical use of guns. Guns are everything in this game, and I quite literally mean everything. Most of the enemies you face are comical representations of bullets, the in-game currency you acquire are spent shell casings, and even the bosses usually employ clever gun puns in their name. The entire point of the game is to shoot enough enemies to get to a final gun that can literally kill the past. It’s pretty meta, and I loved every bit of it.
The colorful pixel art displayed here is incredible. Explosions showed up in vivid detail and the various effects of the different guns really gave the impression that they were something special. In addition to the gorgeous and quirky visuals, the sound effects in Enter the Gungeon are fantastic. Whether it’s the groovy soundtrack that plays in the background, or the satisfying “POP” you get when you activate a blank power-up, the sounds here are fantastic. All of the weapons have different sound effects as well, adding to the already impressive personality that each one possesses.
Speaking of guns, this game has plenty. Through my 15+ hours playing, I still hadn’t discovered even half of them. Boasting a roster of close to 200 guns, I found myself enjoying the vast majority of those I played with. The guns range from standard guns like assault rifles and sniper rifles, to more exciting guns that have special gimmicks. For example, I found a gun that shoots out sailboats, which fly around the room once, eventually finding an enemy to explode into. There are guns that shoot out letters, guns that shoot out lasers, and even guns that shoot out items like mail envelopes or t-shirts. Half the fun was finding these wacky guns and using them to defeat hordes of enemies. It was satisfying and genuinely hilarious to fight a gigantic mini-gun wielding bird boss and end up defeating it by continuously shooting it with a balloon gun. This type of comic relief comes at a price, however. While many of the guns are funny, some just don’t have the functionality to be solid weapon choices. I felt that the ratio for good weapon drops was very small and, more often than not, I would not get a good weapon for a few floors. This is somewhat balanced with item drops however, which I found have a decent enough drop rate to keep it challenging, yet rewarding when things such as hearts would show up.
While going alone is very entertaining, I feel like Enter the Gungeon really shines with it’s cooperative play. The second player is stuck with one character to choose from, which could be a turnoff to some, but my friend and I didn’t find it to be that detracting. The Gungeon instantly becomes more frantic with another friend jumping in, making it extremely fun. The careful risk and slow pace taken when playing alone was overshadowed by the mini-competition my friend and I had trying to kill more enemies than the other. This creates a cooperative yet competitive feel to the game. It was hard to go back to single player after experiencing it. Kudos to the folks at Dodge Roll for being able to incorporate mechanics that kept singleplayer fresh and co-op so enticingly addicting.
Enter the Gungeon has a lot going for it. It scratches the difficulty itch that many roguelike players feel in a game, while simultaneously keeping it’s arcade shooter roots that make it approachable to most. While the game doesn’t always dish out awesome weapons to the players, when it does deliver, it brings some of the most addictive and engaging gameplay I have ever experienced in a roguelike. You’ll come for the huge variety of guns and items, but you’ll find yourself staying for the simply great gameplay and replayability. Don’t just take my word for it: jump on in and see just how far you can get once you Enter the Gungeon.