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Exit the Gungeon is the sequel to Dodgeroll Games’ hit rogue-lite game, Enter the Gungeon, and was initially released on Apple Arcade on Sep 19th, 2019. As an Apple Arcade launch title, it was actually the reason that I signed up for Apple’s monthly arcade service. Personally I didn’t enjoy the touch controls on iOS and I never attempted to play it with a Bluetooth controller, so the game got shelved until its later releases. The game launched on PC and Nintendo Switch on March 17th, 2020, PlayStation 4 on November 13th, 2020 and finally Xbox One on December 6th, 2020. For the purposes of this review I will be discussing the Xbox One release. Since the original release, Dodgeroll also released the Hello to Arms content pack which added a new boss and new mode to play.
Enter the Gungeon holds a special place as one of the top rogue-lites ever made. The mixture of replayability, bosses, weapon synergies, and humor makes for an incredible experience. Exit the Gungeon takes place after the events of Enter the Gungeon, where the time traveling and gunplay has weakened the Gungeon, and it’s beginning to collapse. The gungeoneers need to make a hasty escape back up, and out of the Gungeon.
If you’re familiar with Enter the Gungeon then the enemies, weapons, and items will all feel familiar. Many of the original game’s NPCs have returned to the game to aid the gungeoneers in their escape attempts. Most notable is the Sorceress, who provides a blessing that changes your gun periodically. The Hello to Arms expansion added a mode where you get limited ammo guns akin to the original game. The core gameplay loop meanwhile, is a mix between vertical scroller and single room platforming. From a design perspective, Exit the Gungeon doesn’t have truly random floors or patterns. Instead, each character has a route that they have to take to exit. Then, once the game is beaten with a specific character, that route can then be played by any other gungeoneer. While there is some randomness in the specific rooms that a character will encounter, the number of rooms and vertical scroller sections will be the same each run.
In my opinion Exit the Gungeon is a lot more approachable than Enter the Gungeon. The runs take about 25-35 minutes each, and the overall experience is much easier than Enter the Gungeon. It took me around 6 runs or so to get my first final boss kill, and another 3 or 4 to get a kill on the optional boss that shows up after the Dragun. The enjoyment in a rogue-lite comes from the items you get during the run, and the ability to permanently unlock new items between runs. In Enter the Gungeon the item pool was mixed between new guns, active items, and passive items so there was more balance. In my experience, Exit the Gungeon runs tend to get overpowered very easily because all the items you collect are passives. It’s far too easy to get the top tier items like the bullet modifiers, and rare items like gundromeda strain (which makes all enemies weaker). Switching off the blessing mode makes the game feel more traditional,since you have to find, or buy, individual guns and find ammo drops for them. Personally I prefer the arcade feel of getting the random guns, and having to build up your combo multiplier in hopes of getting the top tier guns.
Exit the Gungeon handles the active items a bit differently as well. As you play there will be floating power-ups that will give you the effect of an item for a limited time. This mechanic is neat and allows you to be powered up at different points of the game though I do miss having a consistent active item that can be activated on demand. The randomness of the gun blessing, and the appearance of random items, will definitely impact your run. If your gun switches to something terrible during a boss fight, there’s nothing to do other than hope it changes quickly to something better. More than a few times a run was lost due to bad randomness during a boss fight. But for anyone who enjoys a rogue-lite, you live and die by the RNG.
Exit the Gungeon maintains the same puns and humor that were present in the previous installment. Bosses in Exit the Gungeon include the Medusalier, Meowitzer, Buffammo, Killinder, and the Glocktopus. Many guns or items in the game are also puns or references to other pop culture icons. For example, the “Fightsaber” gun is a play on the Star Wars lightsaber and deflects incoming bullets. The game’s NPCs are rife with humorous lines as well.
Story and narrative isn’t usually the reason that people enjoy rogue-lites. Though there are a few exceptions like Children of Morta, most of them rely on solid gameplay mechanics and drawing you in with that “one more run” rush. Other than simply trying to escape, there’s no story to speak of in Exit the Gungeon. It was more developed with the characters’ pasts, and opening up new levels to uncover the secrets of the gungeon. Exit the Gungeon really fulfills this desire with shorter runs and a decent amount of credits earned after each run, so there’s always a good feeling of progression. Even unlocking the NPCs is fairly simple. Enter the Gungeon’s main criticism seemed to be about the difficulty, and the feeling that progression was slow because of the difficulty. This is “fixed” in Exit the Gungeon.
Exit the Gungeon is mechanically sound as well. Playing on both an original Xbox One, and an Xbox Series X, there were very minor hitches and very few slowdowns. This is impressive when you consider the sheer volume of effects and physics that are behind each bullet on the screen. Games like this rely on twitch responses, precision movement, and aiming so any issues with lag or glitching will create a negative experience.
Overall Exit the Gungeon is a fun rogue-lite shooter that provides a great value at $10 USD for the amount of time that can be sunk into it. It suffers from being fairly shallow as once the game has been beaten by each character, there’s not much reason to keep replaying other than to just unlock the rest of the items and guns. There’s no story line to speak of throughout the game, and for people that didn’t play Enter the Gungeon, a lot of the references, NPCs, and jokes won’t have the same impact. It’s a great game if you need a break from a longer more in-depth game, or if you simply have a few minutes to play. The game is definitely recommended if you were a fan of Enter the Gungeon or rogue-lites in general, but there are better options if you’ve never played a game from the genre before.