Title: Exit the Gungeon
Developer: Dodge Roll
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: Dungeon Crawler, Platform, Shoot ’em Up
Platform: iOS, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: 3
Release Date: 17/03/2020
Price: £8.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Enter the Gungeon was launched in 2016 on PC, and over the next 18 months, it spread across to all other platforms. A brutally difficult top-down dungeon crawler, it received near rave reviews from most who played it.
When the sequel was announced, its initial launch location on the Apple Arcade may have shocked some, but its spread was inevitable, and just last month, Exit the Gungeon made its way over to the Nintendo Switch.
But can this sequel hold a candle against the looming shadow of its spectacular parent, or will the adage of nothing beating the original in any series ring true once more?
The game is a treat to look at. Each of the playable characters are easily distinguishable and have their own required play styles. Not that this varies too much in this kind of game, but they have their own strengths, ranging from enhanced accuracy to a slower but more powerful rate of fire.
The level designs were largely simple, yet given the space to work with, carried a lot of detail, which really came to shine when the levels were watched rather than played.
The pixel art style worked so well, and even with the insane amount of action that could hit the screen at any point in time, I never experienced any drop in quality.
The soundtrack to the game was suitably triumphant with that mix of high fantasy and rousing inspiration. Yet, it was never overpowering, and you could always hear the sounds of the Gungeon. The fast pace of the game and the constant change of your weapon meant you never had one sound long enough for it to become tiring, which has been a flaw in other games I have played recently. The Gungeon crew got it spot on in my book.
The first thing anybody will realize when they load up this game is that you are no longer playing a top-down dungeon crawler, but rather a vertical dungeon climber. A rogue-like platformer if you will. Following on directly from the first one, the Gungeon has been entered, but it’s a fragile place and is crumbling around you.
It’s now your sole focus to get out before it collapses and destroys everything. Of course, it’s not going to be that easy, as all manner of enemies are waiting in each stage to stop you. Seeming disinterested in trying to escape themselves, they direct their anger and most probably their inner turmoil at losing their home, into your complete and total destruction.
There are 5 levels to the game and at the end of each, you will encounter one of thirteen different bosses. Which one you face is up to the will of the Gungeon gods. Each one presents a different challenge, but as excepted, there is a predictability to their attacks, a pattern that can be found and learned. Because you will die playing this game. You will die a lot. Even before you get to the boss battles. There will be moments where the screen is filled with a seemingly insurmountable swath of bullets, and you will be cursing the fact you accidentally wasted your blank shot when panic jumping out of the way a few moments earlier.
There is a claustrophobic feel to many of the levels, that certainly could induce a far more panicked style of gameplay than other schmups I have played.
Unlike its predecessor, Exit the Gungeon didn’t give you anything in the form of weapon drops. Rather, your chosen weapon is blessed at the start of your run and will thereafter automatically change at regular intervals. You had no control over when or what, but the better you play, the more enemies you killed without taking damage, the better weapon you received.
The key to beating the game is pattern recognition and understanding which enemies needed to get taken out first. Especially when the screen started to get full.
While there are no collectibles in the traditional sense, there are various powerups that you can collect as you play through the levels, found in chests as you clear what I call bonus levels. So, the levels were phases interspersed with these bonus levels which, when cleared, offer chests with various power-up rewards.
Defeating a boss also gives you the ability to acquire a key from the very same rat that appeared in Enter the Gungeon. Only now he is selling you one key each level clear, which you can then use to unlock various NPCs. Unlocking them grants you the ability to obtain new weapons and other items. Again, these weapons cannot be selected, but enter the rotation of RNG weapon spawning as you play.
You can also purchase various power-ups at the end of each level from the long-suffering Gungeon merchant.
The game is designed to be replayed. It is designed to be frustrating and is insanely difficult. Yes, there are patterns, and yes, once you get the hang of them, it becomes a lot easier, but that doesn’t remove from the simple fact that this is a difficult game.
Even once you have escaped the Gungeon you will still find yourself itching to get back in and claw your way back out again. This title plays to the gaming masochist that lives within us all.
Exit the Gungeon is a wild ride. Due to circumstances beyond my control I played this game in handheld mode only, and I was in constant fear of breaking my joycons with the frantic movements and general pace of the game. I think it would have been a better game to play had I been on the big screen and with my trusty pro-controller in hand.
Exit the Gungeon is a fun game. It is a challenging game and one you will sink a lot of time into without ever actually realizing it. However, it is not as good as Enter the Gungeon. It simply isn’t. I applaud the devs for changing it up enough to make it a different game and not just a carbon copy. The changes were good and worked, it just remains that Enter the Gungeon feels like the better game.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can get your copy of Exit the Gungeon on the Nintendo eShop here.