Enter the Gungeon

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Dodge Roll for PC, Mac, Linux, and PS4, originally released in 2016.
Enter the Gungeon is a bullet hell roguelike dungeon crawler featuring a handful of Gungeoneers who must descend a tower in search for a legendary gun that can kill the past. Each hero has a past that he or she hopes to eliminate by finding this weapon, but it won’t be easy, as the tower is filled with traps, bosses, and hordes of the Gundead. Battles are tough and resources are limited, but the adventurers press on in hopes of unlocking more powerful weapons that will eventually lead them to victory.


Players begin each game in The Breach, a safe area outside of the Gungeon where they can select a character, speak with a handful of NPC’s, and play through a tutorial area. Players may select between one of four Gungeoneers, each of whom comes equipped with a weak infinite ammo weapon and a handful of support items.


Among the Gungeoneers is The Marine, who is a solid pick for first-time dungeon-divers as his default weapon has a high clip capacity with a fast reload speed and high accuracy, and his helmet allows him to sustain one additional hit of damage without losing any health. In addition, he has a one-time-use support item in the form of a radio that allows him to call for an ammo drop from within the Gungeon, which is handy when you need to reload your big gun before a boss fight.


Next is The Pilot, who is a bit of a rogue. He carries a set of lockpicks that give him a chance to open weapon- and item-bearing chests within the Gungeon without the need to use a key (but they don’t always work), and his charming personality grants him a discounted rate in the shops. Additionally, he can carry more items, and any weapon he picks up is able to hold 10% more ammo than that of his fellow adventurers.


The Convict takes a more rough and tumble approach, with damage bonuses activating whenever she gets hurt. Her infinite ammo revolver only carries five shots, but she also has a sawed-off shotgun that lets her dish out the heavy hurt when she gets up close to her enemies. She also carries a Molotov cocktail, allowing her to set the ground on fire and cause burn damage to everything in its area of effect. She can’t use it very often, but it’s useful for dealing with large numbers of ground-based enemies in a confined area.


The Hunter carries a pistol and a crossbow. The crossbow is a bit harder to use as it must be reloaded after every shot, but it can kill weaker enemies in a single hit, which is quite useful in the hands of precise shooters. Unique to the hunter is her travelling companion, a dog that trails along behind her as she blasts her way through the Gungeon. The dog is able to discover hidden chests and the occasional health restorative, making him useful for players who are looking to take a more methodical approach.


Lastly, there is The Cultist, who is only available during the game's offline co-op mode. This is more of a support character, carrying only a dart gun for a weapon. However, The Cultist also has some helpful items which allow for the resurrection of a fallen comrade and a stat boost when the other player falls in battle.


Regardless of which adventurer you select, the controls for each are the same. Players move room to room from a top-down isometric perspective, and they are able to move and shoot independently. Of utmost importance is the dodge roll, which allows players to dodge out of the way of enemy fire and other hazards, with characters becoming temporarily invincible while in flight, but returning to their formerly fragile selves upon landing.


Bosses and many regular enemies are capable of filling the screen with a barrage of bullet butter, leaving very little room to maneuver, and the player’s moderate movement speed means that running for cover isn’t always an option. For truly desperate situations, players have a limited number of “blanks” (as in a blank cartridge for a gun) that eliminate all enemy bullets and temporarily keep enemies from firing, offering a brief moment for players to collect themselves, reposition, and possibly return fire.


Blanks are restored when moving from one floor to the next, and additional blanks may be collected as occasional drops from defeated enemies. Other pickups include a shield and health restoratives in the form of full and half hearts. The shield allows the player to sustain a single hit of damage, and it pushes nearby foes back and prevents them from firing for a moment.


Players begin each session with three hearts and no shield (except The Marine). These items are not restored between levels, and they are rarely dropped by downed enemies, so learning how to avoid enemy fire is paramount. This is easier said than done, however, as you may find yourself walking into some tough situations, even outside of boss encounters. For instance, you my need to face off against a buffed iron maiden that fills the room with projectiles that seek your location when all you have on-hand is your cruddy infinite ammo pistol.


Enter the Gungeon is a heavily gun- and bullet-themed game with loads of weapons, bullet shaped enemies, and bullet-spewing bosses with gun pun names. However, for all its gun-centric sensibilities, the game is pretty stingy with weapon distribution…


Outside of bosses, guns are rarely found as enemy drops. Instead, players must earn money (in the form of shell casings) to buy weapons from in-dungeon shops, or find them by opening treasure chests. Opening locked chests requires a key, and if the player has no key, he may purchase one from the shop. Getting guns from chests is a somewhat risky endeavor as the contents of chests are random, and it’s very much possible to encounter a weak weapon that is no better than your regular pistol.


Shops have a semi-random inventory, offering keys, guns, hearts, active and passive buffs, ammo recharges, and blanks. At least in the shop, you can see what kind of gun you’re buying, even if you don’t necessarily know what it does (you can look up previously acquired guns in your “Ammonomicon” if you don’t mind flipping through a couple hundred weapons to find it). Still, guns tend to be significantly more expensive than health, shields, and keys, often leaving players to choose one in exclusion of the other.


It’s very much possible to go through an entire floor and never encounter any additional weapons – particularly on the first floor – and facing off against bosses with your weak starting weapon is a frustrating and laborious affair. And since this is a roguelike, death means that you will find yourself back at The Breach to start over once again, beginning each new session with your default weaponry.


The lack of general weapon drops means that your strategy will remain very similar from one session to the next as you pick away at loads of weaker enemies with your pistol until you get lucky enough to find a better weapon. And if you do find a really nice gun, chances are you’ll want to save it for the boss fight, as these weapons have limited ammo. This means that you’ll once again be picking away at your foes with a weaker weapon, potentially switching over to a bigger gun for a little while as the situation demands, making for some fairly tedious minute-to-minute gameplay.


The pace picks up when luck favors you with several weapon pickups in one run, allowing you to switch between them as desired, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Having extra guns on hand also allows the player to take advantage of “gun munchers”. These mysterious chests allow you to feed in two guns – even ones that have been depleted of ammo – and it spits out a random fully loaded weapon in return.


The configuration of each floor of the Gungeon is random, but the individual rooms and enemy placements are handcrafted, which allows for some variety from one session to the next without sacrificing balance in terms of environmental conditions. Once all of the enemies in a room have been defeated, the player is free to move onto the next room, and he is often given the choice of several rooms, usually with no indication of what lies within them, outside of shop locations.


Bosses are also random, with two or three possible encounters on each floor, so you can never be sure what to expect. Of course, this also means that it’s difficult to plan on which weapon would be best to bring to the fight… You may find yourself saving up money to buy a nice Molotov cocktail launcher, only to find yourself facing a flying boss who is immune to them.


Players must be mindful of boss’ movement and bullet patterns and stay on the run while dealing as much damage as possible in return. Defeating a boss almost always results in some health restoratives and a top-notch gun drop, which can be very useful in the next level of the dungeon. Bosses also drop glowing currency that can be used in The Breach to unlock new weapon types which will appear as loot in future sessions.


Players are able to rescue NPC’s from The Gungeon by finding golden keys and the corresponding jail cells. Upon rescue, these NPC’s perform various functions, such as offering additional items for sale in the shops, or making better weapons available as drops, and these unlocked NPC’s are persistent across sessions. One mysterious fellow can rig the elevator (which is a giant bullet) to descend further into the dungeon, allowing players to skip earlier floors once they meet his conditions.


Rooms in The Gungeon are filled with destructible objects in the form of pots, furniture, and books (especially books), but these do not offer drops, so players do not need to waste time tromping through all of the breakables upon clearing a room. On the other hand, these objects increase the general mayhem of gunplay as things are constantly breaking and being flung around, and occasionally masking the presence of enemies (like demonic books). Also, the player is able to upend tables to absorb enemy fire, and that’s just nice.


There is a tremendous amount of variety in the available weapons, allowing for hells-a-poppin’ blasts of fire from a pitchfork, rapid-fire bullets and energy bolts, fat lasers, and even squirt guns, T-shirt cannons, and a gun that shoots bees, and some of these weapons are more effective against certain enemy types. Many weapons have alternate fire functions as well, which occur when the player stops firing or reloads. Active and passive buffs go a long way toward aiding the player as well, with health and shield buffs, capacity increases, damage modifiers, and active items like decoys and explosives.



2D CRED
Enter the Gungeon was developed by Dodge Roll, a studio based in Washington DC and founded by former Mythic Entertainment employees. The game was developed by Dave Crooks, Joe Harty, David Rubel, and Brent Sodman, with SFX by Erica Hampson. Music for the game was composed by Adam “Doseone” Drucker, who also provided audio for Nuclear Throne, Heavy Bullets, and Catacomb Kids. The studio previously developed Fork Parker's Holiday Profit Hike, a freeware ascent-based game centering on Devolver Digital's enigmatic CFO.


The game was published by Devolver Digital, which has published a number of 2D indie games including Serious Sam: Double D XXL, Luftrausers, Broforce, Foul Play, Fork Parker's Holiday Profit Hike, Hotline Miami, Hotline Miami 2, Titan Souls, Not a Hero, Ronin, Downwell, and Mother Russia Bleeds.

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