Fast-paced, frenetic, and mindlessly fun, Exit the Gungeon continues the formula of its predecessor by offering a challenging, exhilarating experience, but at the cost of originality.
Originality, of course, is not what one expects when going into a game like this. After all, there’s any number of pixelated rogue-like indie games out there, with Dead Cells, Children Of Morta, Notia, Nuclear Throne and Risk of Rain being just a few of the more popular ones. However, whereas games like Risk of Rain 2 took the risk of going 3D (which proved an overwhelming success) Exit the Gungeon chose instead to play it safer by choosing to be entirely 2D instead.
But besides the new perspective and what exists of its story, Exit the Gungeon is almost identical to its predecessor–and by extent to most other roguelikes. Find power-ups, shoot bad guys, and, ever so slowly, become more powerful and/or skilled so you can get further the next time. But unlike last time, the goal of the player is–you guessed it–to exit the dungeon.
This is accomplished by going by a series of elevators, trains and other platforms and shooting your way through countless enemies all the while. Your guns happen to change from one to another in the middle of fights, which means that one minute you’ll be shooting acorns, the next a banana, and the next, quite literally the word “bullets”. This sometimes means adopting a different approach while fighting the same enemies, other times, it just means your bullets will suddenly turn into a tentacle.
The enemies, meanwhile, are as diverse as the guns you use to shoot them with. They range from the generic (dudes in armor with big swords) to the bizarre (ghosts with AK-47s). Every so often you’ll encounter a boss, a character to rescue, or some other situation to mix things up. But just as fast it’s back to pew-pewing your way through countless enemies. Whether or not this is a good thing, of course, depends on your mileage.
All in all, the experience adds up to something undeniably addictive (even though, if I’m being perfectly honest, bullet hell games are practically fun by default). Roguelikes are a bit of a more fickle beast, but by keeping to the formula of its predecessor, Exit the Gungeon manages to continue the effective combination of the two. However, the game keeps perhaps too close to the formula of the previous in certain ways.
For one: as far as I could tell (though I could have missed one or two) there wasn’t a single gun that I picked up that wasn’t already in the original game. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of new enemies either. Presumably that will be changed as the game is continually updated, but it doesn’t change the fact that Exit the Gungeon is not far from a simple clone of its predecessor (though, given the low price point of ten dollars, this can to some extent be forgiven.
But perhaps Exit the Gungeon’s greatest strength is that it knows what it is and doesn’t try to be anything more. The game leans heavily on the self-referential, parodical style, from a character dying for saying the game “sucks” (as far as I could tell, the character doesn’t come back to life), to shotgun shells that shoot shotguns rather than the other way around.
Some parts got a good chuckle out of me, like when I realized when some platforms actually came alive and begin to shoot at me, when I realized that the pillars were holding guns and had little faces, and when the little spike blocks with faces first appeared on my screen.
Hm, is anyone else noticing a pattern in my humor preferences here?
Speaking of which, noticing patterns is basically the crux of the game’s core loop, and perhaps what makes it the most fun. The more you learn the behavior of your enemies and the bosses, the better you’ll become at anticipating how to beat them.
So if you’re looking for simple, challenging fun to waste the hours while the world–much like the Gungeon itself–seems to be falling apart, then Exit the Gungeon is as good a time-waster as any.