Forget the name: Enter the Gungeon may be one of the few games with a pun in the title which isn't a total disaster (I mean, listen: someone actually called a game 'Bubsy in: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind.' Come on.). In fact, it can actually be quite a lot of fun, especially when you're not impugning the reputation of the development team's mothers due to its relentless enemies and their love for bullet hell.
Devolver's latest is another twin stick dungeon crawler with a roguelike elements and a penchant for punishment, and in the early going its difficulty (and the way it locks off certain upgrades) might see some people bounce off of it. Picking from one of four characters, each with different weapons and buffs, you enter..the...gungeon (sigh) and attempt to make your way down through the various floors. Map layout, enemies, weapons, items, and even bosses are all generated differently for each run.
As players make their way through these dungeons they'll encounter all manner of gun-pun themed enemies, with the main foes being bullets which fire, erm, bullets, sentient grenades, as well as books which throw out letter-shaped projectiles and knights that expend more errant munition than the average Texan household. Taken on their own these enemies pose little problem, but together their differing attack patterns means you can quickly be cornered.
Still, each character has a few tricks they can use to counter the waves of bullets: a forward roll grants a generous period of invincibility, and clicking in the sticks fires a 'blank': finite consumables which remove all enemy projectiles from the screen. Players can also buy new weapons and items from each stage's vendor, and occasionally foes will drop keys which can be used to open chests, granting superior firepower or a new buff.
In full flow, Enter the Gungeon works: flipping tables, diving over bullets, and weaving your way through wave after wave of neon death inspires a level of concentration and awareness even the most seasoned of danger-masturbators haven't yet reached, and killing a boss while on your last health bar – or without taking a hit – will never not be enjoyable.
There's joy, too, in opening a chest and seeing a powerful weapon pop out of it, mainly because each character almost always feels underpowered, sometimes for a whole 'floor' of the dungeon. Given the pot luck involved in getting weapons and buffs from chests and/or the merchant – there are dozens and dozens of weapons, and quality invariably varies – there are a few too many runs where the player feels underpowered or out of luck. Sadly, a lot of the weapons also aren't that much fun to use, despite their inventive nature. For every Super Soaker which pushes enemies onto traps or into corners via a powerful stream of water, there's a slow-firing shotgun or er, magic pillowcase. Yes.
You can attempt to even the odds by unlocking new weapons and items from the game's hubworld, using currency acquired by beating the bosses. But even then, said weapons and items are only added to the potential pool of stuff you might get your hands on, and finding the key to actually rescue the people who will sell you this gear isn't exactly straightforward. Enter the Gungeon's challenge is based on randomisation and repetition, and in fairness to the team at Dodge Roll if players were too well-armed it would disrupt the flow of the game. Sadly it's gone too far the other way.
Enter the Gungeon's issues also extend to the game's co-op mode, which should be the backbone of the experience but is instead hampered by well-intentioned (aren't they all) but unsatisfying design decisions. Mainly, that the second player can't select which character to control: instead, they're issued a small wizard-type avatar which, should they die, can absorb projectiles headed for the surviving player, and also generally act as a nuisance. So they're the Tails to player one's Sonic. Who wants to be Tails?
Like with the loot system and item drops, the flaws in co-op aren't fatal, but they do detract from what is, in places, an accomplished roguelike with a lot going for it, and a few hours play will see shortcuts open and more powerful – and more satisfying – guns drop a bit more often. Besides, the pun works. Just.
Version Tested: PS4