Enter the Gungeon brought something fresh and entertaining to the rogue-like genre when it launched back in 2016, with the charming and bullet-fuelled action full to the brim with humour to go along with its addictive gameplay. It’s only natural then that we’d see a follow up to the game, and that’s where Exit the Gungeon comes in.
Exit the Gungeon’s title sums up the concept of the game: whilst you spent your time trying to Enter the Gungeon previously, this time around you’re trying to escape following your success in killing the past (that might sound weird if you haven’t played the first game, but believe me, it makes for a charming and humorous time). It turns out that leaving the Gungeon is a whole lot different to entering it though, with the game shifting from a dungeon-crawling-shooter to a wave-based-2D-shooter as you blast your way up an elevator to escape the hazards of the deadly Gungeon before it collapses on itself.
That shift to a 2D plane of view changes up the gameplay substantially, with players not only able to dodge roll their way through incoming fire this time around but also VERTICALLY dodge roll through them. That sounds complex, but it literally just means you can jump – it seems like a small addition, but it adds something completely different to the formula. That’s not to say that a lot doesn’t remain the same though: you’ve still got the comical writing, the epic selection of weapons, and the cute yet vicious bullet-themed enemies to defeat that caused you so many problems in the last game.
The controls of Exit the Gungeon are simple enough, with the player moving their character with the left stick, aiming with the right, and blasting out gunfire by mashing down the right trigger-button. Jumping (I mean… ‘vertical dodge rolling’) and dodge rolling is easily performed with a button press too, as is the use of the ‘blanks’ which will automatically get rid of any incoming bullets on the screen – it’s the perfect way to get yourself out of a tricky situation, but their limited quantity means you’ll want to pick and choose their usage carefully.
This was a game that was originally meant to be played on a touch-screen device, so naturally the controls are all accessible in design and the gameplay mechanics have been simplified a little to lend themselves to that. For one, you’ll only have one gun at a time here, with that gun randomly changing as you progress through the game. A lot of the guns you’ll receive are recycled from the original game, so Enter the Gungeon veterans will have a smile on their face as they re-use old favourites, whilst the variety of their design ensures there are plenty of different ways to wipe out your opponents. The quality of the guns you’ll get access to are based upon your own performance in-game with higher combos of kills unlocking better weapons too, so playing well and defeating as many enemies as you can in quick succession rewards the player as you work your way out of the Gungeon.
Enter the Gungeon placed a big emphasis on players’ manoeuvrability skills, so it’s no surprise to see that a lot of your success in Exit the Gungeon will come down to your ability to avoid bullets as much as it is on spraying them out. You’ll be constantly bouncing around the 2D environments and attempting to dodge roll your way through bullets in order to survive, all whilst ensuring you’re still blasting your foes with bullets to both keep them off your tail and ensure that you’re maintaining a good combo of kills – it’s non-stop action and it’s incredibly hectic, so you’ll be kept on your toes throughout. Exit the Gungeon is a tough game, but in that rewarding way where each bit of progress or each conquered boss feels all the more satisfying and encourages you to push on further through the game.
There isn’t quite as much variety in Exit the Gungeon as there was in its predecessor though, with the game no longer procedurally-generated but having you go up through the elevator and explore pre-designed areas. However, that’s not to say you won’t find differences between playthroughs, with each of the different Gungeoneers you can play as in-game following their own different routes and bringing varied gameplay mechanics to the experience. It adds an extra level of replayability to the game that doesn’t only give players a different experience each time, but also lends itself well to the bite-sized nature of Exit the Gungeon.
Exit the Gungeon has a lot of good qualities, but it does have a few flaws that see it fall short of the level of quality found in the original game. For one, the randomly allocated guns could be a bit of a pain, with an element of luck in place that can see your run through the game falter if you aren’t given an effective weapon. You are supposed to get better weapons if you have a higher combo, but with the tighter environments and quicker-paced action, I found some of the supposedly stronger weapons were just a bit too slow – with no second weapon to swap to either, it can leave players in a bit of a fix. It’s a shame because the random loot collecting was one of my favourite aspects of Enter the Gungeon, but it just felt a whole lot more restrictive here.
The whole experience is a lot simpler too. Whilst Exit the Gungeon is more of a spin-off than a full-blown sequel, it’s nowhere near as fleshed out or as packed full of content. It could get repetitive fast, especially after dying countless times already due to the game’s tough difficulty. Now that’s not necessarily always a bad thing and the bite-sized nature of the game ensures that it offers an experience that’s unique and fun to play in its own right, but it’s definitely worth keeping your expectations in check if you were hoping for an experience like the previous game here.
Exit the Gungeon offers an enjoyable take on its predecessor’s established formula, with the frantic action and bite-sized nature of the game making for some thrilling escapades as you attempt to leave the treacherous Gungeon.
That’s not to say that it’s perfect by any means though, with the random nature of the guns and the simpler premise of the game bringing some frustrations to the mix here and there. For the most part though, Exit the Gungeon offers another fun foray into the titular Gungeon and I’m sure most gamers won’t want to be leaving it too soon…
Developer: Dodge Roll, Singlecore
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC