Exit the Gungeon is an extremely simple and repetitive rogue-like that doesn’t feel worthwhile as a PC or console experience.
Over the last decade, the rogue-like genre has become one of the most popular in gaming with titles such as The Binding of Isaac, FTL, Spelunky, and Dead Cells all topping Twitch viewership at different times. Dodge Roll’s 2016 rogue-like bullet-hell Enter the Gungeon similarly had its time in the spotlight and met critical acclaim with an 87 average on Metacritic. However, with Exit the Gungeon, Dodge Roll has created a lackluster, overly repetitive 2D platformer spin-off that feels like too much of a downgrade from Enter the Gungeon, and simply doesn’t feel like it’s worth your time on PC or console.
From my experience, the most successful rogue-likes are the games where each run feels different and unique from the last. The player feels a distinct sense of progression through item and character unlocks, or even just developing a better understanding of the game’s mechanics. In my mind, Exit the Gungeon is void of many of these elements.
For one, the environment is small, cramped, uninteresting, and repetitive. You start each run riding a tightly-packed elevator that enemies spawn in. Every once in awhile the elevator comes to a stop, where you defeat enemies in another small room before reboarding the elevator. Personally, I didn’t like this level design. Exit the Gungeon was originally a mobile game, so it makes sense that the environments would be repetitive and scaled to a phone-screen size, but it’s way too repetitive.
Games like Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac feel different each run because of their randomized environments. Even in a title like Risk of Rain 2, where the same planets are repeatedly cycled through, other elements like chest and teleporter locations are randomized. Exit the Gungeon does away with that randomized element in its level design, making even a single run feel pretty boring and repetitive environmentally.
Another element missing in Exit the Gungeon is a feeling of progression. After each run, you’re sent back to “The Breach”, a safe-haven where you can switch between playable characters and spend your hard-earned credits on cosmetics or new weapons. The issue is that even unlocking new weapons doesn’t really feel like progression. That’s because in Exit the Gungeon every 15-ish few seconds your gun randomly rerolls, giving you another gun you’ve unlocked. This means that even after you’ve unlocked an extremely powerful weapon, you might only get to use it for 1 minute of a 30-minute run. Additionally, you have no idea whether that minute will be well-spent shredding a difficult boss, or absolutely wasted battling basic throwaway enemies on the elevator. This element honestly makes the game’s form of progression feel pretty meaningless as you’ll still find yourself rolling horrible weapons like the long-charging blunderbuss during challenging fast-paced boss fights.
Exit the Gungeon‘s challenge feels like it should come from its small environments that are constantly filled with flying bullets and dangerous enemies. However, on my second run, I ended up beating the game’s final boss. This is because I discovered that you’re actually 100% invulnerable while airborne. This means that as long as you’re jumping or dodging you can literally pass through enemy projectiles without taking any damage; you can only take damage while touching the ground. This mechanic ruins much of the game’s challenge as you can spam your jump and rolls constantly without ever taking damage as long as you don’t land right on top of an enemy or inside of a bullet’s hitbox. The game’s most challenging moments involved tactically jumping around a room for 45 seconds, waiting to roll a gun that helps you complete your current objective.
I should mention that there is a combo meter that increases for each gun you cycle through without getting hit. The higher your combo is, the more likely you are to see strong weapons appear. However, this isn’t a guarantee that bad weapons won’t appear. In a way, the game’s random element makes it even more repetitive. What I mean by this is that statement is that when you receive a good weapon, you don’t think to yourself “Wow, this is looking like a great run!” because you know it will be gone in 15 seconds.
In general, each run feels far too much like the last. The environment hardly ever changes, you’re going to get all the same guns at different points, and the only element differentiating the characters from each other is their passive abilities. The most random element of Exit the Gungeon from my experience is which bosses will appear in each run.
It might sound like I am being extremely harsh on Exit the Gungeon, but I’m not trying to come off that way. I think that Exit the Gungeon is a really-well done mobile game, and if I was taking the subway into work, or in middle school looking for a game to play on my phone during lunch, I would be playing this game. The cartoon graphics are really cute, guns are very creative and unique, and the combat can be exciting with strong weapons.
However, I am reviewing this title in 2020; there is a massive catalog of rouge-like games that do everything Exit the Gungeon does, and many that do what is presented here even better. Additionally, rogue-like games typically have so much replay value, that many players don’t need a reason to expand past the ones they really love. A decade ago, that might’ve made Exit the Gungeon‘s strength it’s portability as a mobile title. Today, that comes with an asterisk as the Nintendo Switch has a great selection of similar rogue-like titles available for essentially the same price. I guess if your only gaming system is a mobile device Exit the Gungeon could be a great game for you, but otherwise, I don’t see it being worth most people’s time, especially when compared to other games in this saturated genre.