Had I based my review off of the first two to three levels of Enter the Gungeon alone, it probably would have been glowing, with only a few complaints about the controls. To be sure, there is still a lot to praise. But I’ve since burned out on the game without completing it based on one simple problem: it’s incredibly stingy and gives no sense of accomplishment for beating the challenges it throws at me.
I want to get one of my biggest complaints out of the way first. I hate the control scheme because it’s needlessly painful on my hands. I know this could have been avoided had I been allowed to change the button layout, something I know I can do on the Steam version. But fuck me if I want to play on console with my nice big screen TV and comfy couch. Then I’m stuck playing with a control scheme that keeps pulling my thumb off the sticks and back again in a frantic motion that just hurts. This is bullshit. If I can change the buttons on the Steam version, why am I forced to play with a control scheme I don’t like on the console?
Because of how badly the controls hurt my hands, I had to play this in short spurts with lots of rest breaks in between, and I did so because there is a lot to like about this game. To start with, the story is wildly unique. In this mysterious bullet castle is a gun that can kill the past, and adventurers with old regrets come from all over the galaxy for a chance to undo their past mistakes. To do so, they must traverse five floors of bullet hell and assemble a bullet that can shoot through time itself. Sounds awesome, y’all.
The dungeons look fantastic, and the bullet enemies are what I would describe as totes adorbs with no sense of shame because they’re just so cute. Even their squeaky little voices are adorable.
The music is fan-fucking-tastic. This has a soundtrack on Steam, and I can see buying that separately because the music is that good.
Then there’s the crazy collection of guns, many of which had me laughing way too loudly the first time I got to try them. There’s an NES Light Zapper that puts out five shots of light beams before launching a homing duck. There’s a gun called Barrel that shoots fish. There’s a mershotgun with a flapping tail for a stock. Even for the guns I didn’t like, they had something special that made them fun to experiment with, even if later I might find them in the shop and pass on them because I knew how little damage they’d do. (Also there were a few I had to pass on because their shots were so spectacularly pretty that they distracted me to the point that I was getting shot watching my shots instead of all the bullets whizzing towards me.)
The bosses have a lot of variety, with several bosses for each floor. The first few times I encountered each boss, I had to accept dying with no hope of winning because I needed a few plays to grasp their patterns and find a way through. This is not a complaint, by the way. I liked the bosses. Or, most of them, anyway.
I’m not so keen on the obscurity that the game gleefully uses as a means of padding. As an example, I’d played long enough to finally rescue an NPC who said he could make shortcut elevators to each floor, and that I’d see him soon. I didn’t. For three days, I played without seeing this guy, and I finally went online to a wiki that said I needed to defeat a boss without taking damage to see him, and that I would need a certain amount of bullet casings and keys to give him. So I played all day to finally beat a boss without taking damage, and I got together the supplies I needed. Still, no sign of this guy. I did this over and over before finally going to YouTube to discover I needed to fall down the elevator shaft to find him. This would have never occurred to me because falling into pits causes damage. Having been trained by the previous levels not to fall, I could have gone the whole game not knowing how to find this guy without online help.
Then the real frustration set in once I had to start grinding for the items to get into the second shortcut. The price was 4 keys and 180 casings, and while it didn’t seem like so much, I had to play for five days without ever getting the amount. It wasn’t that I was playing badly, either. I was simply a victim of stingy RNG. I’d play through three levels, and each time I’d either end up not having the keys or the casings. On one run, I had 6 keys and 150 casings, and the enemies all stopped dropping casings. I cleared the whole floor, went to take on the boss, and the rat bastard dropped ONE casing. ONE. “Great job killing the most OP boss in the game. Here’s your reward, a giant middle finger.”
(I’m not just making shit up about that boss being OP. The Steam version had a patch put out nerfing that boss and his minions because they were too hard. Where’s the patch for PS4? Not available, because fuck console players.)
On another run, I had 282 casings and 3 keys. I hoped to find a key in the shop, but the god damned shop door was locked. And no, the boss didn’t drop a key either. Once I finally got past this hurdle and set up a shortcut, I immediately went on to the next. It only took me two days of grinding to pay the first part of the price, but to finish accessing the new elevator requires a “master chamber,” something I can only get by beating a boss and taking no damage. Sure, I’ll just beast a boss that drops six minions at a time and fires five kinds of swirling death without taking damage. Yuh-huh.
And this is the point where I went, “fuck it, I’m just tired of playing.” I’m tired of clearing a whole floor for a measly 20 casings, guaranteeing that I can’t buy anything in the shop. I’m tired of making near perfect runs for a shitty reward. I’m tired of finally finding a good gun, only to have it run out of ammo because I’m missing one fucking casing to pay for a supply crate. But most of all, I’m tired of hurting my hands for a game that gives me no rewards for my efforts. I’m annoyed that I’ve paid twice for this game, once on PS4 and once on Steam. I thought this would be something to last me a long time, but I’m already sick of its bullshit, and I haven’t even gotten to the point where I can make an attempt to assemble the bullet.
And by the way, to do so requires finding several items within the various levels and carrying them all the way to the final dungeon. Good fucking luck doing that, or with unlocking the fifth character. This requires picking up a broken TV in the second elevator shaft and carrying it to the blacksmith in the final dungeon. To make matters more difficult, the TV drops every time the character does a dodge roll, so it has to be picked up in every room. Find a gap blocking your path? The TV has to be thrown across it. And if the TV falls into the pit? Fuck you, start over.
I can’t even say there’s much point to the shortcuts because the starting guns become increasingly useless against later enemies, even if they’re of the same type fought in previous levels. Which wouldn’t be much of a problem if it was possible to buy or find better guns, but it often isn’t. The further one gets in the game, the stingier the game becomes. Did you just fight through four waves of enemies, all of whom put out showers of bullets? Nice job, here’s one casing. Fuck you for playing, now head to the next room to do it all over again.
How about no? Or better yet, how about FUCK NO?
Oh, and lest I forget, there’s nothing quite like finally making it to the fourth level after finally having been graced by RNG with decent guns and a good supply of ammo, only to have the damned game crash AGAIN.
In the end, I have to give Enter the Gungeon 3 stars. I want to give it two, but I was having fun with it at first, and I want to take that into account. But for every good run I had where I was having loads of fun, there were another twenty to thirty where I just felt put upon by an overly obtuse, stingy RNG system. I’d be hard pressed to recommend this to anyone except the most dedicated of gamers. Even then, I’d suggest getting the Steam version, at least until the makers decide to grace the PS4 with a patch.