Game Review #400: Enter the Gungeon (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Chad M.
Developer: Dodge Roll
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Category: Action, Adventure, Arcade
Release Date: 12.13.2017
Price (at time of review): $14.99 (digital) | $29.99 (physical)
Enter The Rogue Like Legend
In 2014, developer Dave Crooks and three other employees at Mythic Entertainment planned to leave the company and start their own development company. According to Crooks, he had been listening to the soundtrack to the game Gun Godz, by Vlambeer, and the name "gungeon" came to him the next day. Crooks presented the name Enter the Gungeon to his fellow team members, and they fleshed out the game's lore over a lunch meeting, then spent the next few weeks trying to prototype the game mechanics.
This was only the beginning, as they would later create a name for their company, Dodge Roll, and sign a contract at the end of 2014 with one of my favorite publishers, Devolver Digital. The game wouldn’t hit the Nintendo Switch until the end of 2017, but when it did, it truly found its home, as the game shines both while docked and in handheld mode. This is a roguelike legend in an overcrowded eShop, and now that the physical Nintendo Switch copies are out as well, let’s dive right in and talk about Enter the Gungeon!
Enter The Story Of It All
Enter the Gungeon is set in the Gungeon, an Eldritch dungeon on a distant planet, named Gunymede, inhabited by living bullets and other strange gun-related lifeforms. At an unspecified point in the past, a giant bullet from the sky destroyed a fortress, and its resulting magic created a weapon of legendary proportions: The Gun That Can Kill The Past.
The fortress was rebuilt with the highest of security measures to guard the gun, and adventurers known as "gungeoneers" hailed from places all over the galaxy to claim their chance at changing their past. The player can play as eight different gungeoneers, each with their own stories and regrets, as they decide to enter the fortress and descend into the Gungeon to seek the legendary gun and defeat their past.
Enter The Act Of Dodging Bullets & Killing Everyone
Dodge Roll’s Dave Crooks states that the game was influenced by games like Nuclear Throne, Spelunky, Dark Souls, and Metal Gear Solid. One of the game’s biggest inspirations came in the way of fellow roguelike dungeon-crawler, The Binding of Isaac, and this truly shows, as the game has randomly generated levels, enemies, and a crazy cast of characters. As much as I love The Binding of Isaac though, the devs poured a lot of love into Gungeon, as it shines in every way.
From the story to the gameplay, it is a true blast to play. One of the aspects that makes it so different and fun is the dodge-roll. The dodge-roll mechanic was inspired by trying to include a similar mechanic of Ikaruga that enabled a player to easily dodge numerous bullets simultaneously, and mix it with the ideas used in the Dark Souls series, where the character rolls out of the way. The team loved this mechanic so much that they opted to name their studio after it.
This fast-paced bullet hell shooter allows you to choose one of four protagonists—more can be unlocked as the game progresses)—all of whom have different special abilities, such as calling for support or lock-picking chests, and a second player is able to join in for couch co-op. When you descend into the Gungeon, you travel through multiple floors, each with a random number of rooms in it. While the rooms are pre-defined, the constellation of rooms on a floor, the enemies that appear in the rooms, and treasure are procedurally generated.
Each room contains a set of enemies of varying strength, endurance, and attack behavior. The attacks can range from simple, straightforward shots, to a complicated mixture of shots fired at the same time. To accompany the dodge-roll mechanic, you’re able to flip tables and use them as covers—although tables can be destroyed if they are shot at. The player has a limited number of "blanks" for each floor that can be used to eliminate all current projectiles and temporarily stun enemies. To defeat enemies, the player must use guns, which can be found in chests, won by defeating bosses, or bought at shops scattered around the floors in the Gungeon. The game features over 300 different guns and items that can be combined to achieve more powerful effects.
At the end of each floor, a boss awaits the player. Beating the boss grants the player a gun or item, and currency to spend at shops, and unlocks the next floor. As you progress through multiple playthroughs, you may encounter NPCs that can be rescued from the Gungeon. Once rescued, these characters take residence at The Breach, a safe level above the Gungeon. The Breach is also where the player, prior to starting a new playthrough, can spend a type of in-game currency earned from boss fights to permanently unlock special items that will then have a chance of appearing within the Gungeon for all subsequent playthroughs.
Enter Into A Ton Of DLC
The game has received three free post-release content updates, such as more weapons, enemies, and levels. The first of these, the "Supply Drop" update, added several new guns, enemies, and room layouts, and landed in North America and Europe on December 14 and 18, 2017 respectively.
A second major update, "Advanced Gungeons & Draguns", was released on July 19, 2018 for all platforms, which, along with adding additional weapons and enemies, was aimed to provide means to play the game that are friendlier to inexperienced players, but still offer more challenge for others.
While Dodge Roll had been working on a third major update, the team decided by November 2018 to cancel it so they could focus their efforts on a new game. The team stated that the amount of time they had to put in to get "Advanced Gungeons & Draguns" was a wear on them, bringing the total time they had been working on the game to five years. Each new gun they added had to be tested against other effects already in the game, which also wore them out. Dodge Roll released a final free patch in April 2019, "A Farewell to Arms", which fixed lingering bugs and provided one last set of content updates, and they will continue to support the game otherwise.
Enter The Ending!
Enter the Gungeon is an experience that blends roguelike elements with bullet hell shooter gameplay in such a special way. Dodge Roll has made a game that is not only easy on the eyes, has great lore to dive into, and is fun to play, but is also a must-own game. I have a few games on the Switch that are not Nintendo properties that are truly must-owns, and Enter the Gungeon is one you need to own; and luckily, it dropped physically with goodies inside, so even if you own the game digitally, it’s worth a double dip to have this game forever on Switch.
Follow Dodge Roll
Follow Devolver Digital
*Review Copy Provided by WONACOTT COMMUNICATIONS, LLC