Photo from: store.steampowered.com
By Nick Nogueira
We’ve all once felt that anxious sensation that crawls along the tip of your spine at some point. You find yourself here due to unfortunate circumstances. You did not want to be here, but you knew you needed to be. One foot in front of the other, you carry on, unaware of what hideous presence lurk within the darkness…or something like that. You estimate your chances of survival are slim to none; they most surely are.
You came here for the Gungeon, a legend well renown throughout known-space. Its purpose? An untold number of tales were woven, all of different fabrics. Most close in known-space in the Gungeon knew of the true legend: a weapon so powerful it could break the very essence of time and reality, the gun that can kill the past. Any warrior worthy enough to conquer its furious and relentless halls are bestowed the ability to change history as their heart’s desire.
Eventually you arrive at a cliffside, past all the crag and broken wall of mighty stone lies a valley. It stretches far beyond what you could perceive in the thick, offending, purple mist that envelops this place– possibly stretching even farther than the poisonous horizon that should strike fear into you. Meteors rained in furor as the sky faded into a deep amethyst; however, by some unknown force, you are emboldened to continue.
Miles upon miles of dark valley there lay: a mass grave, or more apt, a great battlefield. Remnants of a war unlike what you thought you could ever imagine.
From here the miasma becomes more obvious, hanging above the ground and in the sky unforgivingly. The journey, you knew, would soon come to an end. A few miles down the path stood your imposing destination. A cruel and macabre castle– an edifice of evil. There was no gate, only a massive skull, half the size of the castle itself, stood as the entryway. An eerie, blue glow emanated from its eyes and twisted maw. This is the Gungeon, and it beckons for your entry.
Enter the Gungeon is a fiendishly adorable 2D bullet-hell gunfight dungeon crawler. Following four misfits with their own abilities, pasts and regrets, they explore and fight their way through the gungeon seeking the ultimate treasure: the gun that can kill the past.
The objective is to battle your way to the bottom of the gungeon by surviving an evolving series of floors with the dangerously cute Gundead and frightening gungeon bosses populating the halls. From an AK-47 to an RPG, to a nerf gun and a water gun; there are over 130 unique weapons at your disposal and dozens of other passive abilities to assist you to reach the gun that can kill the past. What does the gun that can kill the past do? Exactly.
Developed by independent studio Dodge Roll and released April 19, 2016, the game takes advantage of its adorable yet unsettling aesthetic and graphic. It provides a unique, viscerally difficult game that is accessible to the casual and hardcore gamer alike. Do not be fooled by the smiling bullets and grenades. They are much deadlier than they seem.
Part of an age-old cult dubbed “The Cult of the Gundead,” these anthropomorphized pieces of ammunition are the enemies that stand in the way of the great reward the Gungeoneers seek. The cult is ever looming in the gungeon’s great halls; they are brimming with deadly enthusiasm. There is a sense a palpability when you enter a new room, an anticipation that crawls under the skin. Each door to a new room builds an expectation. What is waiting for me on the other side?
There is the small, average bullet kin who squeaks a pathetic cry when he pathetically meets his end, the burly, the high gunjurer, chanting in his amusing high pitched voice who summons a ring of bullets to let fly in your immediate direction; the cowardly yet powerful Ammomancer, who summons the laser-eyeing Shelletons, runs away sheepishly if you get too close; to the mighty Gurnreaper, whose scythe sows seeking bullets. There is no shortage of humor, character and horror down to every glorious pixel.
Enter the Gungeon has an original soundtrack produced by Doseone, a self proclaimed poet, rapper, singer, painter, producer and sound designer. The soundtrack features 36 songs and can be listened to on his website free of charge, or you can pay any sum above a penny to download an mp3. The soundtrack mimics a 16-bit sound style and reverses it. Some songs reflecting a tense, anxious, angry, metal guitar beats– others deep and foreboding with heavy reverberations. It harkens back to the 1990s arcade days of yore, reminiscent to the enthusiastic high noises the likes of Megaman and the seedy, action oriented track of Metal Slug.
SHOP KEEPS SUITE is the shop’s theme music, accompanied by the condescending yet supportive Shopkeep. Yes, that is his name. The song’s humble melody dances on a calm staccato dominated by a synth keyboard. Several tunes play with a unique, flowing timeliness that puts you at ease, in opposition to some of the more impassioned songs.
Along the way are actually various Non-Playable Characters (NPC’s) who provide quite a fair amount of aid to your dungeon delving activities. From guns to items to abilities, most of the characters act as item sellers– whom you help throughout various quests, periodically revealing more and more of their inventories as you aid them.
The NPC’s all have unique items exclusive to their inventories and unique manner of speakings that parallel the parodies they represent. After freeing him from a cage in the gungeon, players can find Professor Goopton, a cuddly octopus-like creature who speaks in an alien language that is completely unintelligible without acquiring a certain item. He sits atop The Breach, a hub where characters walk around safely and interact with other NPCs.
Near the staircase entry to the depths and beginnings of the Gungeon are two tall guards cloaked in red with gold accents, each adorned in an equally fortuitous shining bullet-shell helmets. Flanking to the right is the good Professor with his small store of items, modestly contained in miniature corked bottles.
Ser Manuel introduces the player to the basic mechanics of the game in the tutorial area, The Hall of Knowledge. He puts you to the test at the end of his training, dramatically falling to his knees once he receives the final blow. “You have bested me… I, the great Manuel! So long have I ruled these halls, only to be undone by the likes of you! You have done it, you beat the entire game. Leave me here to die!” He sobs as he finishes his words. Quite literally. Or take the boisterously old-fashioned Gunsling King and his loyal manservant, Manservantes. If you manage to rescue the King and his servant, they randomly appear in the gungeon to offer you a challenge room, which if you complete successfully, you receive a prize in shell casings, the game’s equivalence of currency. There are unique plethoras of rewards a gungeoneer can partake in if they help the right people.
Enter the Gungeon hits that millennial sweet spot of nostalgia. Every young man and women that remembers growing up playing Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog and Megaman– all the greats that defined our gaming youth- will make you feel like that kid that sat in front of the TV at 11pm with salty fingers and wide eyes, struggling to clear just one more area over and over again. Just one more new ability or item to unlock. Just one more person to talk to. Just one more boss.
Steam, the digital game distribution platform, offers refunds on any game you have played less for two hours or owned it less than two weeks. With a free account. You could download the game and give it an honest try for at least an hour. If not for its solid gameplay mechanics and hilarity, for its beauty and intrigue.