Enter The Gungeon is what happens when truly groanworthy puns get in bed with an old school bullet hell dungeon crawler. What, that’s not a valid genre? It very much should be.
I love a bad pun. Some people kind of like them, begrudgingly, while others find them only groanworthy, but I’m always up for a terrible pun, as anyone who has ever conversed with me at any length will be only too well aware.
(I’m not fond of the descriptor “Dad Jokes” to describe them, but that’s an argument for another time, methinks.)
Terrible puns are undeniably what drew me to Enter The Gungeon in the first place, because as pun-titles-for-a-dungeon-crawler-featuring-guns goes, it’s eminently groanworthy. What’s more, Enter The Gungeon actively knows and revels in its use not only of puns, but also weary tropes. Want a cliched grizzled shopkeeper hidden within your dungeon? Enter The Gungeon has you sorted. How about a group of mysterious cliche-ridden figures,all trying to erase a mistake from their past? Again, you’re good to go.
Did I mention that Enter The Gungeon doesn’t take itself all that seriously? You’ll soon pick up on this, whether it’s the enemies, which start out as simple sentient bullets… wait. That means that I’m shooting sentient bullets with other bullets that are presumably traitors to their own kind.
Deep. Maybe I’m overthinking it.
Anyway, enemies are ludicrous, as are the guns that you’re given to fight with. Yes, you start with Enter The Gungeon’s equivalent of a pea shooter, but play well enough and you’ll soon have more guns than you know what to do with, along with the issues of keeping them stocked with ammo and reloaded at the right time. Usually, that’s not when you’re about to be shot in the face, although that will happen quite a lot.
At its heart, Enter The Gungeon is yet another rogue-like randomly generated dungeon crawler with a large cartoonish boss at the end of each dungeon, sorry, gungeon, level. As the title suggests, the quirk here is that you’re equipped only with guns, which means it’s more like playing, say, Gauntlet or more specifically, Smash TV.
That’s because Enter The Gungeon sells itself as essentially a bullet hell type shooter within the confines of a dungeon setting. In order that you’re not totally overwhelmed, the key survival mechanic — beyond pumping endless rounds of lead into your enemies — is a roll move with very specific immunity frames in play. At the fast start of the roll, you can dodge right through any projectile, but the slower end of the roll sees you entirely vulnerable not to mention stuck rolling in whatever direction you started in. It becomes a frantic balancing act when there are serious waves of bullets heading your way.
This is a gaming mechanic that takes some learning, but it’s supplanted by the standard kinds of ways you might survive a shoot-em-up style game, whether it’s hiding behind a pillar or simply weaving your way through a bullet pattern. Once you do start to click with using the roll you can start pulling off moves that would do John Woo proud.
You’re presented with the choice of four different character classes — specifically the cliche-riffic Marine, Pilot, Convict or Hunter to take through the Gungeon, all with their own reasons to want to erase part of their history by way of blasting hundreds of enemies. In classic Smash TV style, as you enter each room the doors lock, leaving you with no choice to kill or be killed. Frequently in the early going, it will be much more of the latter.
Enter The Gungeon isn’t revolutionary, and it isn’t anything but a relatively light one to two player arcade shooter. That’s OK, though; not every game has to be a deep sprawling epic.
Enter The Gungeon knows its gameplay limits and plays superbly within them. It supports co-op multiplayer — and to be clear, I’ve not had much of an opportunity to test that out but there’s little reason it shouldn’t work well — but it’s still one of those old school pick-up-and-play-for-a-brief-burst style games.
Highly recommended, in other words, especially if you like lethally bad puns.