[Review] Exit The Gungeon – Nintendo Switch

Written by Richard Strachan
  • Developer: Dodge Roll
  • Publisher: Devolver Digital
  • Release date: 3/17/2020
  • Price: £8.99/$14.99
  • Review code provided by Devolver Digital

Introducing: Exit the Gungeon Nintendo Switch Review

Did you Enter the Gungeon? I did… and promptly got my backside kicked! Exit the Gungeon is a spin-off of the 2017 bullet hell dungeon crawler that follows on directly after the events of the first game. Exit the Gungeon initially released on iOS last year, before coming to consoles in March. I’ve yet to play the iOS version, but I can’t imagine the tight shooting works so well with a touch screen. The Switch version, on the other hand, is punchy, tight, and (for better or worse) even harder than the first game. It’s also, in all likelihood, the only way I’ll ever be seeing what lies at the bottom of the Gungeon!

Fission Mailed

Enter the Gungeon was all about working your way downward through the many floors a Gun-themed dungeon (hence the name.) Your goal was to find a special weapon, which when fired would kill your past. Exit the Gungeon starts from the moment that weapon was fired. The Gungeon has become a paradox, and you are tasked with escaping. As the Gungeon breaks down around you things get a little strange, the shifting nature of the Gungeon affects both the arenas you battle in, and the weapons you earn as you progress.

Shooty Shooty Bang Bang

Unlike the first game, which played as a top-down twin stick shooter, Exit the Gungeon plays as a 2D side scrolling shooter. The mechanics are fundamentally the same, with the right stick controlling your aim and the left controlling your movement. The game is much briefer than its predecessor, and acts more as a palate cleanser. Indeed, the devs said that they wanted to take the opportunity to make something smaller after the first game, having supported that with extensive free DLC after its release.

The game begins in the Breach, essentially the game’s hub area, where you can select from one of four characters, each with unique passive abilities which affect the gameplay. Once you select your character, you enter an elevator and begin the mad scramble upwards from the bottom of the disintegrating Gungeon.

Each elevator serves as an arena where you are tasked with defending yourself against waves of gun- and bullet-themed enemies. You start the game with a weedy pistol, but due to the paradox affecting the Gungeon, your weapon changes every minute or so. The quality of the weapon is affected by a multiplier which builds as you kill enemies in quick succession. The key is to keep the multiplier high to ensure your next roll is a decent weapon. On more than one occasion I was given a new weapon just before a boss fight and received something terrible, which was a source of much frustration as well as hilarity.

Between trips on the elevator, you enter a floor of the Gungeon which is a randomly-generated arena in a more static room. Again you battle relentless waves of enemies before receiving a treasure chest with some power-ups. These consist of health, ammo or items which modify the damage you do or how your weapons handle. Loot is randomly generated, meaning each run can play completely differently. Success can sometimes hinge on getting lucky with the power-ups you unlock.

To work through each battle, you have access to a dodge roll during which you are completely invulnerable. You also dodge roll as you jump, which goes some way towards helping you survive the relentless onslaught. As if that wasn’t enough, you get access to blanks, which are smart bombs which clear all bullets on the screen. These are few and far between, so managing their use is a key part of a successful run. Despite the defensive options available, Exiting the Gungeon is a ridiculously difficult proposition! Regardless, I had a brilliant time banging my head against that wall over and over again.

The game does have some degree of progression as you unlock Hegemony Tokens, the currency of the evildoers that oversee the galaxy of the Gungeon games. These can be spent in the unlockable shop (which unlocking in itself is no mean feat!) The credits can be spent to gain access to new items, which are added to the pool of weapons and upgrades, giving you more options to fight off the unrelenting horde.

The moment-to-moment gameplay is tight, engaging and brilliant fun! Some may find the difficulty a little intimidating, but it is worth persisting and learning the different enemy attack patterns as the game offers a lot in such a small package.

Nice guns, mate!

Exit the Gungeon is a gorgeous-looking title, resembling a 16-bit game on steroids. The pixel art is detailed and conveys a huge amount of character. Each of the enemies is based on some form of weaponry, be it a gun, bullet or grenade. The little anthropomorphic killing machines manage to be both sinister and cute at the same time, whilst bosses are screen-filling monstrosities presented in a cool freeze frame intro.

Bosses are well-designed, and in some cases have some not-so-subtle references to other video game characters, but any references are handled in a respectful way. The game is chock full of references to games, films, and beyond. The weapons are especially creative and manage to pay homage to Halo, Super Mario, GoldenEye, Metroid, and many, many more! I had a lot of fun trying to pick up on each reference any time I found a new gun. I also felt a pretty heavy Mario influence in the design of some of the early levels. The nods to all the different source material really complement the game rather than feeling like cheesy fan service.

The weapons range from simple pistol and AK-47 analogues to crazy things like a shotgun shell which fires rotating shotguns when then fire their own projectiles. There are a few comedy weapons including a D-pad and a lower case letter R (which is literally what it says). The letter R fires out a stream of letters spelling B-U-L-L-E-T combined with a ridiculous voice saying “BULLET.” The weapons can go from being ridiculously satisfying to downright absurd.

When you combine the random nature of the weapons you are given, with the super high difficulty curve, things can occasionally frustrating. I’ve had a few runs spoiled by a duff roll just before a boss battle. It’s not much fun trying to take on a ‘roided up Bull with a water pistol firing bubbles!

The audio in the game is great, with each of the guns having an appropriate sound effect, including some well-done joke weapons. The in-game music is very similar to first game, and is very much in fitting with the sense of urgency required in escaping the disintegrating Gungeon.

A long silver bullet into a well-greased chamber

The game runs perfectly in both docked and handheld and didn’t seem to suffer any stuttering during my play time. This is pretty crucial when you are having to dodge an influx of bullets coming from all directions, but thankfully Dodge Roll have managed to combine tight handling with smooth performance!

Final Thoughts

Exit the Gungeon manages to succeed in doing exactly what Dodge Roll wanted. As a palate cleanser between some of the denser offerings on Switch, it offers some super satisfying pick-up-and-play arcade action. The game does seem to be missing co-op, which was included in the first game. Dodge Roll supported Enter the Gungeon with a long tail of DLC, so it’s not impossible that we might see something added down the line. The game could also do with some form of online leaderboards, but the lack of these features doesn’t detract too much from the overall package.

Pros

  • Looking for references is great fun
  • Tight shooting mechanics
  • It has a Klobb!

Cons

  • Gameplay can be unforgiving at times
  • Random allocation of weapons can be brutal

Verdict

Exit the Gungeon is a triumph! It’s a slick, tight arcade shooter with a huge range of fun weapons to use and some cool pop culture references!
4/5

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