I’ve never really liked Rogue-like games, because you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Every time you boot up a game like The Binding of Issac or Don’t Starve, you are thrusted into a completely random world with limited resources or random loot. When your game is over, it’s not guaranteed that you will get that same chance of a rare weapon or item until your 15th or 110th play-through. But, one game made me give the genre another chance in the form of a sci-fi fantasy dungeon crawler with equal parts humor and a lot of guns.
Enter The Gungeon, developed by Dodge Roll Games and published by Devolver Digital, is a rogue like single person to co-op dungeon crawler with pixel graphics and character. It’s a love letter to weapons and the games that inspired them- from the Nintendo Zapper to LD Studio’s DOOM’s BFG. With its high learning curve but addictive gameplay, this bullet-filled crawl will hurt and help you be a better gamer. From the moment you pick up the controller, you’re thrown into the fire in your first run- if you haven’t gone through the tutorial. Enemies- ranging from little bullets to demonic weaponry- will try to destroy you at every new room you enter. It’s your job to survive and push forwards.
The gameplay is focused on surviving waves of enemies with your weaponry. When you start your run with your selected character, you’re given a starting gun and item to use and, depending which character, your run time may last from one floor or the whole Gungeon itself. The environment- tables, explosive and water barrels, and chandeliers- can be used as traps or hazards on incoming enemies as you blast waves of enemies with randomly generated guns you can find on each floor. Your most important gameplay mechanic is your dodge roll, will help you avoid gunfire on the moment you use it. However, be ready to move or dodge roll again in case you find yourself rolling into a hazard. Or a Blank, in case the room is full of bullet fire. Move, dodge, interact, and survive as you go through the floors, talking with merchants and gaining added benefits as you progress through the game.
When you die or start up the game after a death, you get the option to return to “The Breach,” where you can use your added currency of defeated bosses to manually unlock guns and items to use during your runs. Two features that you should know is gun “synergy” and the rate of availability guns have. Ranging from “The Peashooter”- your beginning weapon- to more rare drops like the “BSG” or “Big Shooty Gun.” If you have the “Mahoguny” with “The Pea Shooter,” you get a larger Peashooter. Then again, if it drops at all.
In terms of story, there is no overarching story as there is a goal. Get through the Gungeon and achieve the greatest weapon of all time- the Bullet that can kill the past. There are multiple characters that you can grind through the floors with, The Convict, The Hunter, The Pilot, and the Marine, along with the unlockable characters of The Bullet, The Robot, The Paradox, The Cultist (only in co-op) and more recently, The Gunslinger. Each “Gungeoneer” is unique and the player is encouraged to try out all the characters to blast their part and unlock different costumes and guns.
A word of warning to the player; this game has a high learning curve. Don’t be discouraged when you fail multiple times on one single floor and feel like you’re going nowhere. With every boss battle, you learn, improve, and able to get better guns with every run. I had times when I would go through a run and I would get so far as the first boss and die. But, once I got the timing of the dodge rolls and placed when I needed to use my blanks to blast enemy gunfire away, it got easier and I was able to learn from my mistakes.
Overall, I enjoy this game. It’s disheartening to know that the Dodge Roll aren’t going to be working on it anymore, but why wouldn’t they? It’s a great game with references, inventive enemies, and bosses, complete with a randomized dungeon floor at each turn. Enter The Gungeon is a modern classic that is simple to pick up but difficult to master until you get it.