STAFF REVIEW of Exit the Gungeon (Xbox One)

Saturday, January 9, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Exit the Gungeon Box art Back in 2016, a little indie roguelike amassed quite a following with the release of Enter the Gungeon for its addictive and challenging gameplay. Here we are four years later with its pseudo sequel, aptly titled Exit the Gungeon. While some might not consider it a true sequel, and more of a spin off because of a drastic change in its gameplay, its cannon does take place directly after the concluding events of the first game. If you’re yearning for a challenging rougelike bullet hell, Exit the Gungeon might just be the spinoff you’ve been looking for, though fans of the original should be aware that the gameplay has shifted from its classic top down view to something drastically different, but there’s also plenty of fan service and details you’ll recognize from the first game.

Remember that time you entered the Gungeon and got a gun that could kill time? Well, turns out that in doing so the Gunslinger caused a paradox, fracturing time, so naturally the Gungeon is starting to collapse on itself. This is the setup and smart way to setup the change in gameplay, as you’ll be trying to exit the Gungeon via elevators. Of course the enemies won’t let you do so easily, so prepare to shoot your way out while you try and survive.

Enter the Gungeon was a top down adventure, exploring and surviving a series of interconnected rooms. Exit the Gungeon on the other hand has you trying to escape on seemingly never ending elevators, making this a sidescrolling roguelike shooter instead. While some purists may not enjoy the drastic shift in gameplay, it works well and obviously makes sense narratively speaking. This also means that most levels are quite basic, as there are different types of elevators with plenty of varying enemies and traps, but there’s not much else in terms of variety for level design. This singe room approach will at times make you feel claustrophobic and cramped, especially when bullets really start to fly, as there are traps to avoid and lots of pits that can kill you as well.

The other major change is what they tout as your blessed weapon. At the beginning of each run the Sorceress will bless your gun causing your weapon to change randomly into another type of gun after dealing a certain amount of damage, a set amount of time, killing a certain amount of enemies or running out of ammo. That’s right, your gun is going to constantly be changing on you, and because this is a roguelike, it’s completely random. This sometimes works out in your favor, but can also severely hinder you at times as well if you get a terrible gun in the middle of a big battle or boss fight. There’s apparently some sort of system where you get better weapons based on combos, but this isn’t explained all too well, and honestly, there’s way too much going on screen at one time to even pay attention to details like that anyway. Simply just be prepare to have your weapon swap on you at the most inopportune moments.

There’s another optional mechanic where you can toggle specific weapon drops, but these guns will require ammo, whereas your blessed randomized weapon(s) do not. You’re going to always start with a lame simple pistol, but then it gets weird when you start getting really odd weapons, such as one that shoots bubbles, leaves, a tentacle or even one that shoots “bullets”, yes, the letters that make the word “bullets”. Some weapons are vastly superior to others, but the problem lies in its randomness. Sometimes you’ll get surrounded by a ton of enemies and you get swapped to a weapon that only fires one bullet at a time. Or maybe you’re fighting a boss, needing to keep distance, but you get randomly swapped to a shotgun.

The Pilot, Marine, Convict and Hunter return, allowing you to choose from either, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and play styles. Not only will who you choose slightly change how you play, but the elevators you experience will slightly differ as well for each run. You’re able to freely swap, so you’re not totally locked into a specific character. Each character will need to roll and dodge to survive, a skill you’ll need to master if you don’t want to die and have to start all over again. As you roll or jump, you have a moment of invulnerability, so this is how you escape seemingly impossible spots when bullets are coming towards you from every direction. While there’s a brief tutorial in the beginning about these skills, it took quite some time to react with it naturally and become much more proficient with staying alive longer than a few floors.

Some stages themselves can be inherently much more difficult than others just based on how its elevator is setup. Some for example have a large gap in the middle, and if you fall down you take damage, effectively cutting off a good portion of moving and breathing room to dodge. Some platform sections move, others are pressure buttons that will shoot at you if you don’t step on them after a short period of time, and even one elevator is made up of platforms that sit atop of balloons that randomly pop.

As you kill enemies and survive, each elevator will result in a boss fight if you’re able to survive that long. I don’t want to spoil any of these, as they were quite fun to battle, and challenging, but fans of the original game will surely smile when they see some of their favorites return but in new forms and attack patterns.

In between each section and taking the elevator up a level, you’ll enter an area where you can purchase items at the shop with the currency you’ve collected, or partake in optional challenge rooms with a few enemies to earn some extra cash or items. This can work for or against you though, as you might leave these rooms with less health than you began with, so choose wisely. The shop will be your best friend, as this is where you’ll be able to purchase health refills, armor and more, should you have enough of course. Remember Resourceful Rat from the first game? He’s back but will now sell you keys to save your imprisoned friends, adding new NPC’s that can change a variety of different things, like stores to purchase special items and more in subsequent Gungeon runs. Spending money on keys means less to refill health and purchase other weapons though, so again, choose wisely.

I’m all for a challenging roguelike if it’s fair, and while Exit the Gungeon is absolutely beatable, it’s quite a journey to get to that skill level to actually do so. The small elevator level design feels cramped and claustrophobic at the best of times, and the bullet hell on screen at certain times can be overwhelming with all the chaos happening simultaneously. While Exit the Gungeon might be a drastic change in its gameplay from the first game, it still has all the charm and essence that you fell in love with in the first place.

**Exit the Gungeon was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10


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