Stairway to (Bullet) Heaven – Enter the Gungeon Review

Everyone has regrets: something you wish you did, something you wish you didn’t do, something you just want to forget. So how far would you go to kill the past? Would you stare down hordes of enemies, explore an ever changing labyrinth, only to die and start again from the beginning? Would you… Enter the Gungeon?

In Enter the Gungeon, you play as one of the Gungeoneers: people with deep regrets who explore the mostly randomized Gungeon to find its great treasure, a gun that can kill the past. Each of them start with different weapons and items. For example, my favorite, the Hunter, starts with a rusty pistol, a crossbow, and a dog. The pistol has unlimited ammo, but is weaker than other character’s starting weapons. The crossbow is powerful, but has a long reload time. And you can pet the dog when it occasionally digs up extra items for you. All of the Gungeoneers have their pros and cons, but all of them feel viable and can use any of the Gungeon’s countless weapons. You can use the weapons you discover in chests throughout the Gungeon in satisfying and fun ways; from the baseball bat to hit back bullets to a gun riding a skateboard, every weapon is unique, incredibly creative, and have well written descriptions in the game’s Ammonomicon. You can play as a bullet, using a bullet that shoots shotguns which shoot bullets. What more could you want?

You probably want to explore the Gungeon. Each time you enter, the layout of each floor is randomized. Instead of complete randomization, every room is purposefully designed, and the game draws upon a large pool of them to create the level. This stops the game from generating cheap death traps, and instead you get… fair death traps. You can also find various secrets on each floor, from hidden rooms to entrances to secret floors. Each floor offers an abundance of choices to make each foray interesting and, more importantly, fun. Do you visit the shop to buy a new weapon or replenish your health, or do you head straight for the boss? Do you use one of your precious keys to open a chest, or do you save them to fix the elevator to start your next run on a lower floor?

The Gungeon itself is also gorgeous. All the enemies, characters, and weapons you encounter are colorful and intricately animated. Every single one is memorable, which makes it very easy to remember their attacks or how they can help you. The bosses especially are a visual treat. They all have an intro screen with some very detailed pixel art, and it’s easy to tell how each will attack you just from looking at their design, even if you’ve never encountered them before. After defeating a boss, you get some currency that stays with you after you die. You spend this in the game’s hub on weapons and items to add to the pool of treasures you can find in the Gungeon. It helps to add a sense of progression without making it feel like you couldn’t reach the end of any run. One of my favorite parts of discovering new items is to read about them in the Ammonomicon. Their descriptions can range from funny absurdity to interesting lore. I would open the menu every time I got something new, or sometimes just to watch the animation for opening the book.

Speaking of menus, which are all intricately detailed, Enter the Gungeon has some of the best options menus in any console game. You can adjust practically everything about the game, including button mapping and graphics settings. You can also set some options to change when you’re playing co-op with a friend. More games could really use an options menu like Gungeon’s: Why isn’t button mapping standard in every game?

While Enter the Gungeon is partially a bullet hell, you have plenty of time and options to avoid every single shot that comes your way. Every enemy and boss has a distinct shooting pattern, which incentivised me to deal with the ones I felt less confident in dodging first. If you can’t dodge by moving or rolling, you can hide behind walls or flipped up tables, and if all else fails, you can use a blank to erase all bullets from the screen. And thanks to the generous amount of aim assist, which you can also adjust or turn off, you never have to stop shooting. This along with all the different weapon types and items makes every single encounter feel strategic and different. It can feel exhilarating clearing a floor without taking a single hit, or just scraping by with a sliver of health left.

Enter the Gungeon is a game for everyone. I play co-op often with my little brother who mostly enjoys sports games and shooters. It has enough random chance that less skilled players can get lucky, and experienced players don’t have to rely on lady luck. It’s funny, frightening, cute, fun, and fair.

Review conducted on the Nighthawk Interactive physical edition, available now for $29.99.

David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.



Enter the Gungeon

Review Guidelines

Games as good as Enter the Gungeon don’t come along very often. There’s so much to discover here that you’ll be playing this game for a long time. And you’ll still come back even after you see everything. Gungeon is the pinnacle of rogue-like design.

David Flynn

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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