Bullet Hell games and roguelike games have a lot in common. An amalgamation of the two, therefore, works perfectly. Developer Dodge Roll managed to capture some of the best features of each genre and turn it into one of the most addictive games of 2016. With the game being scheduled for a 2017 Xbox release, now is the perfect time to take a look back on Enter the Gungeon as a case study of the correct things to do when making a bullet hell game.
The Plot Fails to Thicken
As with most bullet hell games plot is not exactly what you would call a primary feature. Plot is not a heavy selling point for games of this genre and that is exactly how it should be! Nobody should pick up Enter the Gungeon and think “I wonder what my motivation to kill these living bullets is?” That would be ridiculous, with a bullet hell game you need to be able to dive headfirst into the combat, all guns blazing and kill with impunity. Story simply doesn’t and shouldn’t matter in these kinds of games.
Enter the Gungeon is wonderfully ridiculous. The characters are not intended to further any sort of deep plot. The enemies and bosses are downright silly. For example, there was a giant half bird with a minigun. As the player dodges through the game’s levels the plot of the game will more than likely be at the back of players’ minds.
All of this is not to say that the game has no plot. There is obviously an explanation behind what you are doing in this weird and wacky world but an understanding of it is not vital to your enjoyment of the game. This uninterested approach to plot is strangely refreshing. It is far too common in gaming today for developers to try far too hard to be clever and deep. Indie developers attempting to turn their low budget platformer into Citizen Kane is a plague on the industry. The approach of Enter the Gungeon works perfectly for the genre. Throughout my play-through of the game, I never once thought the plot was too clever, or too stupid. It was just right. Plot took a backseat to gameplay, which was absolutely phenomenal.
Despite all of the above, the game’s plot is entertaining. The game takes place in a world of strange creatures and living weapons. The player takes control of one of four characters. Each of the characters has their own past and backstory. The goal of the player is to infiltrate the eponymous “Gungeon” in search of a weapon which will kill the past itself. It is a beautifully nonsensical plot and perfectly matches up to the way the game plays.
Enter the Gungeon takes influence from the bullet hell and roguelike genres. Its gameplay is perfect for those genres. The level design is flawless. The controls are simple to grasp and master. The game clearly draws influence from genre heavyweights like Binding of Isaac and Nuclear Throne. The difficulty is intense, but the controls are perfectly fluid while the aiming and cover features are fair. This means that when you die, and you will die often, you will feel no sense of anger towards the game developers. When you get killed by one of the Gungeon denizens, it is almost certainly your own fault. The skill involved in dodging bullets and proper management of items and skills will take a while to develop. Once you learn the game mechanics and begin to manage to work your way past some of the more difficult early bosses, the time you have pumped into the game so far seems like a fair investment.
The game allows you to take control of one of four characters. Each of these four has a distinct starting load-out with different skills and weapons. Although little background info is given on the four heroes, a certain level of attachment is formed to the character you fight through floors with, picking up new skills and abilities.
The game’s difficulty is undoubtedly one of the key selling points. Like any great roguelike game, the player is given an incentive to keep playing through the currency received for defeating bosses. This currency allows you to purchase items and abilities which can appear throughout your future playthroughs of the game.
One of the key points that distinguishes this game in a huge genre is the wide variety of weapons and collectibles throughout it’s randomly generated maps. The wonderfully whimsical weapons offer an additional challenge to the game and allow the player to use a weapon befitting their own style of play. This offers the player a wealth of material to play through, meaning that this game is brimming with replay value. The guns and enemies throughout the levels are very clever and loaded with puns. This means that the completion of the in-game collectible list (the Ammonomicon) does not feel like a chore. You will enjoy being brutally punished in each level just to find a gun made out of balloons that shoots wind.
Graphics, soundtracks and the like
Graphics are not usually a key selling point of this kind of game. However, Enter the Gungeon is a pretty game. It is very retro, visually, and it work’s well for the feel of the game. The soundtrack matches up perfectly. A few hours in this game feels like a return trip to gaming’s halcyon days. The retro feel of the game is a key selling point, but it doesn’t feel forced.
In summary, Enter the Gungeon is an almost perfect homage to classic Roguelikes and Bullet hell games. Everything from the soundtrack to the level design works incredibly well. There are a few little niggling details, for example, the drops are few and far between. This may seem like a small complaint, but it actually is quite a heavy flaw. If the player is expected to battle through these hostile environments, then the ammo and health drops from enemies should be slightly more frequent. As the game is still fairly new, a patch to fix this would not be difficult to achieve. It’s a small flaw but it still needs to be noted.
Apart from this; however, it is difficult to find fault with this title. Everything within the game feels in place. The difficulty level is perfect and it has replay value. Everything is scaled absolutely perfectly. Of course, you can’t expect a beautiful and gripping story or huge branching quests, but Enter the Gungeon doesn’t try to deliver this. For the price you can expect to pay, this game is an absolute steal. Simply put, the gaming industry needs more games like this. Enter the Gungeon is available now on the Xbox Live marketplace and is a smart buy for anybody who wishes to sink hours
- Pretty Graphics
- Fantastic Soundtrack
- Perfect Difficulty Level
- Balanced level design
- Drops are a little stingy