The beauty of indies is they're willing to mix things up. They work on a smaller scale, so they're more apt to get peanut butter in their chocolate. Enter the Gungeon is a roguelike dungeon-crawler, but it adds in some bullet hell and a sense of humor.
The Gungeon is a place where you can undertake a violent pilgrimage in order to leave your sins behind. You pick your character from a motley crew of misfits, each of whom wants to kill their past by shooting it directly in the face. The Gungeon full of anthropomorphic weapons and more, all intended to give you some visual indication of their capabilities; the living bullets shoot pistols, the living shotgun shells shoot shotguns. Bosses like the Gatling Gull cap off the end of each floor.
"It follows in the vein of games like Binding of Issac," explains Enter the Gungeon programmer Brent Sodman. "There are these room-based challenges that are procedurally assembled. There's a couple of areas where we're trying to strike out though."
First and foremost, Enter the Gungeon has a ton of guns. There's 130 guns in the PAX East build and Sodman says each and every one is hand-designed and animated. There's your basic guns, like a shotgun or pistol. There's your more fantastic weapons, like a machine gun that shoots rockets and a mega laser. Then there's the insanity of Enter the Gungeon; weapons like a Super Soaker that puts out fires, a unicorn's horn that shoots rainbows, a mailbox that shoots mail, or the barrel gun that unloads fish. And that's just in this build; by the time the team at Dodge Roll launches the game, they want to have over 200 guns.
You move from room-to-room armed with whatever weapon you find and your trusty dodge roll. The roll lets you pass through bullets, making it a valuable tool as EtG gets harder. It's the mechanic that saves you from the showers of bullets coming in your direction. Some rooms also include tables you can kick over and hide behind for cover. Sodman says there's a thousand crafted rooms that are shifted around to make each new dungeon. There's also a system in place that remembers which rooms you've encountered so you're less likely to encounter them in later runs.
"All of these ideas combine in a way that makes it so every run is a different kind of experience," says Sodman. "If one run you've got a Sniper Rifle and Crossbow, you'll have a different experience from someone who finds Barrett's machine gun arm from Final Fantasy VII."
Despite all the shooting, there is a bit of story within Enter the Gungeon too. During your travels, you'll meet re-occuring characters: shopkeepers, witches, soldiers, and other characters who find themselves trapped within the bowels of the Gungeon.
"We want you to learn more about the NPCs across runs," explains Sodman. "We're taking some cues from Dark Souls; you run into these NPCs throughout your experience. What always struck me about that game was they seemed to be living their own lives in parallel to what you're doing. I always thought that was really elegant. We're trying to do that in a procedural environment."
I absolutely rocked the demo floor shown at PAX East 2015, getting all the way to the boss on my second try; the bullet hell reflexes did me well here. Sadly, the demo only has a single floor, so I have to relinquish the controller to someone else. I can safely say that Enter the Gungeon is fast-paced shooting fun that gave me a few chuckles.
Right now, the Gungeon is a single-player purgatory. Sodman says that the team wants to add local co-op either at launch or within an early update. Online co-op is a bit trickier, as the team doesn't have anyone with network expertise right now. Currently, the game is scheduled to launch on PC, Mac, Linux, and PlayStation 4 some time in 2015.
If you're looking for "Guns, NPCs, silly jokes," as Sodman calls it, Enter the Gungeon might be the game for you. I'm probably going to throw some money in the game's direction.