Welcome to the Gungeon, a descending labyrinth safeguarding its holy relic: a gun that can kill the past. This bullet-soup hosts a fearsome catalogue of adversaries, all of whom are shaped like the munitions they’re packing. With randomly generated rooms, enemies, and guns, you never know what’s around the corner. Well, at least that was the case with Dodge Roll’s massively successful 2016 rogue like bullet-hell, Enter the Gungeon. As far as their 2019 platforming sequel Exit the Gungeon, I’m not sure I can say the same.
Last month, Exit was ported from mobile platforms to Switch and PC. Released last September for Apple Arcade, this seemed like a strange but not unwelcome choice for the developers. While I enjoyed the dungeon crawling aspect of Exit the Gungeon’s predecessor, I knew the company wasn’t married to it. So, I decided to give the Switch port a shot.
Due to the nature of mobile gaming, Dodge Roll has turned Gungeon’s sequel into a fast paced arcade style shoot ‘em up. Since it is geared toward mobile gamers who thrive on quick hits of action, fans of the original Enter the Gungeon should be wary that Exit is a whole new beast. Albeit, it’s kept some of its claws.
When I first booted up the game on my Switch and hopped into a hilariously written tutorial, I was pleasantly surprised to find many elements hadn’t changed. Key gameplay mechanics from Enter were still present, such as its famous dodge roll which allows you to pass through bullets with immunity. Expendable items returned as well, such as armor and “blanks” which clear the screen of bullets. The only key difference in the controls is an added jump feature, which felt obvious given the switch from a top-down model to a platformer.
After the tutorial, I perused the four playable characters and landed on a large, heavily armored marine (seemed like a safe bet). Sadly, I did notice that the cooperative feature available in the original Gungeon has not returned, at least as far as I’ve seen. I was directed to the starting gate, where a sorceress booted me into the fray, explaining that I needed to make my way out of the dungeon.
The first thing I noticed was that instead of an explorable map of chambers, Exit’s gameplay is confined to a small elevator where you are bombarded by a gauntlet of enemies and bosses. Between rounds, you are thrown into different chambers, but never given the option to explore. The shopkeeper has made a return, but only sells abilities and expendable items as opposed to chest keys or guns.
Arguably the most important difference in Exit the Gungeon is a new feature that removes your ability to keep guns and build your arsenal. Instead, you have one gun, and every few seconds, it transforms into one from the game’s huge arsenal. Based on how high your combo meter gets from evading damage, your randomly generated gun will vary in quality. These guns range from bubble-blowers to lock-on missile launchers. These are fun to use but difficult to master given their short duration.
Dodge Roll has shifted focus from strategic dungeon-crawling to chaotic hellfire, with their intention being to make a mobile friendly game that can easily be picked up and put down for 5-20 minute sessions. Exit the Gungeon builds on the randomness of its predecessor, which allowed you to find chests which you could open to find guns or abilities. And yet, any randomness in its enemy encounters has disappeared, as nearly every encounter features enemies in the same order.
While Dodge Roll attempts to abandon strategy in favour of quick gameplay that feels different every time, they have actually produced a claustrophobic combat loop that seems like it offers more variation than it really does.
One thing that continually frustrated me was the types of weapons that were randomly generated. Most of the weapons are either automatic or semiautomatic, meaning I could simply hold down my itchy trigger finger and focus on juggling my roll with my jump. However, sometimes the game will switch you to a weapon that holds a charge, meaning you have to focus on waiting for your shot to be ready before releasing the trigger. If you aren’t counting down to wait for your gun to switch, you may not realize you’ve picked up a charge weapon that requires this attention, causing you to falter and become distracted. This may not sound like a big deal, but in such a tight bullet-hell, this confusion felt almost unfair, and cost me several runs.
It took me ages to beat just the first boss, and even that accomplishment left me disheartened since I knew that with low health, I wasn’t likely to last much longer. Whereas Enter the Gungeon offered many approaches, there is only one way to play its sequel, and that’s with sweaty palms on the edge of your seat. This can be fun if you manage to get a lucky run, but the unbelievable amount of randomness removes a promising opportunity to build skill through trial and error.
Despite how badly I wanted to love this game, I couldn’t shake the feeling that so much of what made Gungeon’s gameplay good has been lost in Dodge Roll’s attempt at a mobile hit. While I did play this on Switch and haven’t experienced its mobile version, it seems that the core combat-loop is flawed, and any room for skill has been depreciated by excessive randomness. I think these problems are absolutely fixable; personally, I would love to see exploration, a way to build your arsenal, and a solution to the charged weapon issue. On the bright side, if you already pay for Apple Arcade, you may as well give this game a try. It’s worth booting up just for the humor, charm, and wonderful soundtrack.
Exit the Gungeon is available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PC
Exit the Gungeon is developed by Singlecore Games and Dodge Roll and published by Devolver Digital.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch Version of the game which can be purchased here is interested.
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Exit the Gungeon
Exit the Gungeon is a small, arcade-style, spin-off 'dungeon climber' that immediately follows the adventures of the misfit Gungeoneers attempting to survive a series of increasingly dangerous elevators and countless waves of enemies. The Gungeon has become a paradox and is collapsing! Blessed by the magic of the Sorceress, your gun will change rapidly as you ascend the Gungeon. The better you play, and the higher your combo, the more powerful the form your gun will take. Battle against the last and most bitter of the Gundead at a frantic pace, slowing down just long enough to chat with some familiar faces… and a few new ones. Shifting rooms, enemies, bosses, bizarre weapons and items all combine to ensure that no two attempts to Exit the Gungeon are the same.
Product Currency: GBP
Product Price: 8.99
Product In Stock: SoldOut