Roguelikes are more popular than ever, with tons of devs big and small creating their own twists on the formula. Enter the Gungeon on the surface is one of several dual-stick shooter/roguelike hybrids, but stands out due to its goofy style, defensive elements, and creative weaponry. A sequel of sorts hit the Apple Arcade and later came to other platforms. Exit the Dungeon takes familiar roguelike concepts, returning concepts from Enter the Gungeon, and its own pick up and play twists to make what feels like distilled roguelike madness. It’s like concentrated juice before you mix it with water, due to a compacted loop that demands paying attention to every second.
Exit the Gungeon picks up where Enter the Gungeon left off. You won the prize, but the problem is the prize is making the Gungeon collapse upon itself. So uh, now you have to leave. You, as whichever explorer you choose, have to ride a cosmically dangerous elevator back up to the top. The only problem is all the baddies you fought on the way down still want a piece of you on the way back up. And the rules are different this time. Instead of a labyrinthine dungeon rooms, you’re at the mercy of the elevator shaft. Also, by the way, you have no control over your weapons.
The first game operated as anyone familiar with these kinds of roguelikes would expect. Your character starts with a unique weapon and a perk, but can find new weapons along the way. It’s all procedurally generated of course, the thrill being in each run being driven by variables. It’s as much about adaptability as it is skill. Exit the Gungeon takes that loop and filters it down to a form of pure evil; by that I mean your gun changes automatically every few seconds. Yes, seconds. You barely have time to figure out how the gun you have operates, before it changes form and function in an instant. This happens when you’re already in a confined space, jumping and rolling around the elevator with no cover, no breaks, and very few pickups.
There are moments in-between, that give you the opportunity to spend bullet casings on health refills or other goodies. You can also unlock characters who will show up back at the Gungeon’s entrance, effectively unlocking new tools and features to play with. In that way, Exit the Gungeon still has plenty of traditional roguelike structure working for it. It isn’t just an arcade version of the original, despite the drastic changes to the core loop. It doesn’t feel like a full-on sequel, nor a full spinoff. It’s a different take on the same ideas, giving players new ways to think about how this space can operate.
Exit the Gungeon looks and feels like its older sibling, albeit with extra “platforming” elements and the traditional dungeon room format stricken away. Instead, the familiar roguelike loop of finding new tools and adapting for each floor becomes a concentrated blitz of variables. Instead of adjusting to a change for a few rooms at a time, you’re adjusting to the same level of change but every few seconds, in a much more constricted space. Sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it’s thrilling. One thing it never is, is boring.
Exit the Dungeon is currently available for the Nintendo Switch, the PC, and iOS devices.