Enter the Gungeon is a roguelike bullet-hell developed by Dodge Roll and published by Devolver Digital. It came out way back in 2016 so, as usual, I am incredibly late to the game on this one.
A gungeon, if you were wondering, is a dungeon that is filled with nothing but guns, bullets, and gun-related puns.
The intro of the game states that the Gungeon was created when a great bullet fell from the sky and destroyed a grim fortress. Over time, this fortress was rebuilt, and at the bottom of it is the most coveted item in the universe: “The gun that can kill the past.” Basically, it lets you travel back in time and change an event from the past., giving you a mulligan—or a second shot, if you will.
In the game, you play as one of four characters—eight if you unlock all the extras—each trying to kill their pasts for various reasons. You don’t really know what those reasons are until you actually beat the game with each character, because it’s not that kind of game.
It’s a bullet-hell. So, most of the game is spent shooting and dodging an inordinate number of bullets.
Now, bullet-hell isn’t exactly the type of game I play on the regular. I find them stressful and, honestly, really, really hard. There is a lot of information to process all at once, and a single slip-up could cost you dearly.
That being said, I have played a lot of Enter the Gungeon lately, and because I’m sure there are plenty of others who are late to the game, I’d like to impart the things I’ve learned in case anyone else was interested in this bullet-riddled game.
Have a Blast
First and foremost. I’d like to talk about what, I think, is this game’s true strength.
Not exclusively puns, but the attention to detail that revolvers around this game and its gun based theme is a barrel of amaze-bombs.
Let’s start simple.
- The inhabitants of the gungeon are called “gundead” and they look like bullets.
- There are Gunjurors who conjure bullets and guns.
- Instead of Iron Maidens they have Lead Maidens
- There are zombie bullets called “the Spent”
- The bosses include the Gorgun, the Beholster, and the Cannonbalrog
- There is a sword in the game called “Blastphamy” and we’ll get into why in a second
- There is a barrel weapon that shoots fish—and if you don’t get that, I can’t help you.
These are just the tip of a gunpowder-laden iceberg. The whole game is like this, and it is literally one of the best things I’ve ever seen. However, what makes this even better is the extent to which this gun theme is taken seriously.
For example, in the Gungeon, any kind of knife or bladed weapon is considered heretical and picking one up will literally curse you, making the game harder. This is why that one sword was called “Blastphamy”—because it is and does.
Without this insane level of dedication to the overall gun theme, Enter the Gungeon would probably be a good game, but it would definitely fall short of greatness.
Gunz & Ammo
One of the things you probably guessed from the previous section is that there are a lot of guns in this game. Like, so many it borders on the ridiculous. What I like about this, combined with the roguelike elements, is that it means that no two playthroughs will be the same.
I also like that they left the guns unbalanced. You might find a gun that can wipe out any enemy in one hit, or one that is so pathetic that you might as well throw it at the enemy, because it would certainly do more damage.
I mean, they do balance this a little with the amount of ammo each gun has, or having to charge the heavy hitting weapons up for several seconds, but for the most part it’s chaos.
I also like that most of the guns in the game are references to popular culture, or an homage of sorts. Just to list off a few that I’ve seen recently:
- The Alien Sidearm is the plasma pistol from Halo
- The Judge is Judge Dredd’s pistol
- The Grasschopper is the Noisy Cricket from Men in Black
- The Zorgun is from the Fifth Element
There are probably too many of these to actually list accurately, but I can’t help but smile every time I pick up one of these guns and immediately get the reference.
Other than the guns, there are active and passive items which can help you in your quest to claim the gun that can kill the past. I’m not going to bother with the active items.
They’re fine. I guess.
The passive item is where it’s at. They can do everything from increasing your damage and movement speed to charming enemies and doing damage over time to anyone nearby.
My favorite passive items, however, are the bullets. These little darlings influence how your ammunition acts once it leaves your gun.
You can get bouncy bullets, irradiated bullets, bullets that fire in a helix pattern, bullets that move slower but cause more knockback, and bullets that pierce through enemies.
What I really like about these, is that they stack in the most glorious of ways. If you get enough of them your standard pistol might be firing three bullets at once. These bullets will then poison, ignite, and charm an enemy, and then pass through them to do it to even more enemies before bouncing off a wall to start the cycle all over again.
Mysteries Wrapped in Enigmas
Another noteworthy aspect of Enter the Gungeon is how much is crammed into it, and how hard some of that stuff is to find.
I’m not sure how to get into this section without spoiling anything for a five year old game, but I’ll do my best.
I’ll start with the killing of the past, since that’s the ultimate goal of the game. Well, in order to do this, you need to beat all five floors of the Gungeon to claim the gun that can do the thing I just said. Unfortunately, the first time you get to the gun you’ll realize something. The gun is next to useless without “the bullet that can kill the past.” So, when you shoot the GTCKTP (that’s a mouthful) it will only take you back to the beginning of the Gungeon.
So where do you get the bullet? Well, you have to build it yourself.
You assemble it from four pieces. These pieces can be found on each floor of the gungeon leading up to the final floor. The thing is, just getting one piece to the fifth floor can be daunting, because just getting to the fifth floor can be a challenge all on its own.
At least you only have to collect each item once, because once the bullet is assembled, you can just pick up another during your next run.
This is just a taste of what the gungeon has to offer, because it’s also hiding:
- 5 secret levels, each with their own boss
- 4 secret characters
- A ton of NPC’s to rescue
- Five different ways to augment your experience, and you can stack them.
- Synergies that make your guns and items act differently depending on your loadout
- A punch out game
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more secrets I’m unaware of, but for the moment, those are the things I can remember.
Farewell to Arms
Overall, Enter the Gungeon is a fantastic game. Its simple design belies the wealth of content and diversity that lies within. The controls are responsive, and if you die, it’s because you done fucked up. I also enjoy that it’s an easy game to pick up and put down, since you start at square one with every run.
I’m giving Enter the Gungeon a ballistic 9/10 because It manages to be a near-perfect iteration of what a bullet hell is supposed to be, and it does so while slinging puns and references at you at about a thousand rounds per minute.
Now, we’ll need to put a pin in this conversation so that I can reload my game and blast through another run, all so that I can shoot on over and do all this again when I shell out some cash for Exit the Gungeon…
Too bad the Gungeon didn’t have a revolver door.
Additional gun pun.