America - Front
America - Back
By Paul Broussard 04th Apr 2020 | 2,596 views
Devolver Digital has certainly never been one to embrace conventionality. After the immense success of 2016's Enter the Gungeon, one would expect the next game to take the core concepts and build on them while expanding on the content. Instead...the next game in the series was a spin-off for iOS, designed to be played without a controller or keyboard/mouse altogether. Now the game has moved over to standard consoles and PCs. But does it handle well, and is a former iOS game worth your money?
Exit the Gungeon retains the roguelike and bullet hell qualities of its predecessor, but mixes things up by changing the gameplay style from a top down viewpoint to a more traditional 2D side scrolling perspective. After the events of Enter the Gungeon, the Gungeon is now crumbling and the player, trapped at the center, must escape by riding an elevator to the surface in order to escape. As you might imagine, this kicks most of the exploration themes present in the first game out the window, and instead the moment to moment gameplay of Exit focuses entirely on the action.
In theory, one might view this as a potential improvement; the exploration in Gungeon certainly wasn’t the focus of the game, and perhaps there’s an argument to be made for not spending development time on something if it isn’t going to be particularly deep. But the randomized layout of the rooms in Enter, even if the actual exploration wasn’t particularly deep, lent the game a high degree of replayability. The simple fact that you were venturing into an unknown maze every time, not sure how things would look or how waves of enemies would be organized, made every return to Enter inherently interesting.
Exit obviously lacks this element, being stuck on an elevator for the entirety of the action. This means that the combat has to carry the entire experience on its own. And it does a good job of that... for a while. Being confined to an elevator means that the best the game can do to mix things up is randomize which enemies spawn in, and the baddies on display here simply don’t have enough variety or depth to be able to keep things enjoyable by themselves.
Perhaps that’s where the guns come into play. After all, it was a combination of both interesting guns and lots of enemies to use them on that made the combat in Enter as fun as it was. However, it’s here where Exit the Gungeon makes one of its most controversial decisions, likely in order to accommodate its original release on touchscreen devices. Guns aren’t acquired and switched out by the player. Instead, each time you run out of ammo for a gun, you’re randomly assigned a new one.
This puts a huge dent in the sense of progression that Enter had. Buying guns in Enter meant that you had achieved something on your run; it was a tangible upgrade. Guns in Exit, conversely, only stick around as long as they have ammo. Buying a gun is only useful for however long its current amount of ammo lasts and adding it to a pool of RNG guns that you can potentially pull. While RNG is an important element for roguelikes, a sense of progression is arguably equally important, and Exit has unfortunately missed the latter.
That may be what makes Exit feel less engaging after a while than Enter. Dying in Enter felt like I was learning multiple lessons, like how to improve at the combat, or what I needed to focus on buying from shops in order to improve my odds at surviving and fit my playstyle. Without the permanence of guns in Exit, the strategy aspect of the game immediately loses a significant portion of its depth. Learning from your mistakes feels less fulfilling as well, with many frustrations coming from the RNG mechanics. In Enter, game overs felt much more consistently like my fault, whereas in Exit it felt far more common for me to have a run of bad luck, getting some bad weapons and some tough enemy layouts, and then just dying as a result.
To be fair to Exit, when you’re not getting hosed by RNG, the combat of the game is fun, at least initially. Randomized or not, there’s a wide variety of guns, as well as a number of very clever boss encounters that make the most of the elevator design. But it doesn’t take long for the novelty to wear off and for the game to feel like it’s repeating the same motions without adding any complexity to the equation. Admittedly, Exit is a $10 game, less than Enter costs 4 years after the latter’s release, so it probably isn’t fair to expect a game as engrossing. That said, Exit had largely lost my interest by the end of the first hour or so, and by hour 2 I found myself just actively wanting to play something else.
Unsurprisingly, the art direction is certainly reminiscent of Enter, albeit a bit brighter than most of Enter’s darker rooms. It looks pretty good in motion, and the game does a good job of keeping individual enemies distinct from one another. The environments are also charming and fun to look at for the most part, and the character sprites are endearing in their own way. Technically the game runs well too; at least, on PC, there were no noticeable FPS drops of any kind, which may not be setting the bar too high for a previously iOS game but it’s certainly better than the alternative.
If $10 is enough for 1-2 hours' worth of entertainment for you, then you may have no problem with Exit the Gungeon. For most people, however, it’s tough to recommend, especially when Enter is available for just $5 more. If you’ve already shaken Enter down for all its worth and felt the need for seconds, or if you're a diehard fan of the bullet hall genre, Exit might just help tide you over until a proper sequel eventually gets announced. For everyone else, however, you’re likely better served by looking elsewhere.