I very rarely contemplate quitting a game before beating it. But occasionally some games just do not click for me, and Enter the Gungeon was one of those games. After a few hours I grew frustrated with my lack of progress and how relentlessly punishing this game was. Luckily, I gave it a couple more hours before retiring completely. Over time I grew to enjoy the charming challenge of Enter the Gungeon. I am glad that I kept playing despite my early struggles.
Admittedly, Enter the Gungeon falls firmly out of my typical preferences as a bullet hell roguelike. I’m not particularly fond of bullet hell games or roguelikes, but I was drawn in by the insane variety that Enter the Gungeon boasts. Typically, a “run” will consist of the player descending through five floors. Each floor is randomly generated and contains enemies, shops, treasures, and a boss to cap it off. What is unique about Enter the Gungeon is how everything is cleverly tied to the central theme of guns. The floors are called chambers, the enemies are bullets, the bosses have witty names such as “Ammoconda” or “Dragun”, and the weapons themselves are often references to famous guns in pop culture. Enter the Gungeon isn’t too obnoxious with its references, but it very clearly is in love with referential humor.
Despite its cutesy appearance, Enter the Gungeon is brutally difficult for newcomers. The sprites and goofy humor can be a much-needed reprieve from the unrelenting challenge that is conquering the Gungeon. Dodging and weaving through waves of bullets requires proper knowledge, foresight, and reflexes. Furthermore, consumable items such as health, armor, keys, and ammo are fairly uncommon. As such, wasting resources such as health is heavily punished. Beating the main five floors is a fairly daunting challenge at first, but it does get substantially easier once the player learns the enemies and bosses. There are many optional challenges past the main floors such as secret floors, story-driven boss fights, additional characters, special game modes, and unlockable items. These extra challenges provide for tons of replayability for veterans.
As the player progresses through the run, they will collect a variety of guns, active items, and passive items to be used during that run. The unparalleled insanity of some of the guns and combinations is what makes Enter the Gungeon so much fun. Every run is a question of what sort of crazy combo you will get to play with. Every item has built in synergies with other items, these synergies modify how the items behave. By the end of a run, the player will usually have amassed 10-15 different guns and items. The sheer number of combinations and synergies kept me coming back to see what I would get next. Starting a run with a mere pistol and then 30 minutes later wielding a rapid-fire rocket launcher that homes onto enemies and also shoots lasers is quite the satisfying progression.
Since there is overwhelming variance in items and guns, you will never know what to expect when starting up a new run. This comes with a price, however. With such a staggering number of weapons and items, a new player can and will be completely overwhelmed. It can be incredibly hard to get into a rhythm of playing the game, since you will constantly have to readjust to fit what loadout you have. New players are going to be dying constantly, trying to learn how the game works, how to play, the enemies, the bosses, the floors, and constantly readjusting to new weapons which can off-putting. Ultimately, you will get better at it. Once Enter the Gungeon clicked for me, I couldn’t put it down.
Despite me eventually learning to love the game, I do think that more could’ve been done to prevent the brick wall for newcomers. I’m not suggesting to strip away the challenge or make the game substantially easier, but I think some brief item descriptions would go a long way for Enter the Gungeon. Simple descriptors like damage, fire rate, and accuracy would have severely limited my early game woes. Early on, it’s an absolute nightmare to pick up a new weapon and try to test it out against enemies and feel out if its any good or not. When I’m struggling to clear a room, the least of my worries is if the gun I just picked up is worthwhile. I almost never use outside resources to help me with games, but eventually I started looking up unfamiliar items on the wiki.
It says a lot that after 40 hours and a dozen completed runs, I still frequently had to check the wiki. Sure, it can be fun to experiment with a completely unknown item, but doing that ten times per run is just unnecessarily exhausting. I just want to know how much damage my gun does. The worst offender of this is synergies, which are a core component of the game. When certain guns and items are in your inventory, they will have special bonuses. The player is given no idea what the bonus is, and testing to figure out what it can be is a struggle. I don’t think adding just a brief idea of the guns stats and synergies would take away any of the fun of experimenting. Players still would test out if they like weapons and items, but it would at least give you a general idea of the strength of a weapon.
It should be noted that Enter the Gungeon is a very random game. Sometimes, you will collect an arsenal of insane weaponry. Other times, the pathetic pistol that you start with is your most viable option. This is just an inherent aspect of the games design; it is essentially unavoidable. In order for those moments of feeling like the terminator to exist, there must be times where you are weak and vulnerable. Ultimately, you are going to have lucky and unlucky runs in Enter the Gungeon, and it’s just something that you have to deal with.
Overall, I’m glad I stuck with this game. The first few hours were rough, but once I was rolling, I had a blast. That satisfying feeling of making it a little bit farther in each run is indescribable. There is so much that kept me coming back to play more. Different modes that drastically change how the game plays, secret floors and bosses, or just the pure excitement of getting a new combo of weapons that puts Rambo to shame. It is for these reasons that I give Enter the Gungeon an 8/10. If you want an adrenaline pumping bullet hell with incredible variety, then you should definitely try Enter the Gungeon.