Roguelikes. Everyone loves them. Or at least I do. Most of the time.
My first was probably The Binding of Isaac which hooked me for something close to 20 hours (which is pennies compared to what a lot of other people have sunk into it). There have been literally hundreds since then, with each one just different enough from those around it to stand out. Shining stars for me have been FTL, Teleglitch and, my personal favorite, Dead Cells.
Honestly I rarely seek out Roguelikes despite how much I like them. There’s still a lot of sameness to a lot of the offerings out there, so something needs either a really good reputation or a unique mechanic or system to grab my attention.
Enter the Gungeon came first. I’ll admit, I’ve always had a love of bullet hell games…but I am absolutely terrible at them. I’m terrible at most games, but bullet hells are on another level. Not only do you need completely undivided attention, you have to account for what’s happening on the other side of the screen while making the smallest little adjustments to your characters position to avoid a wave of bullets. Throw in dodging mechanics and invincibility mechanics and I’m done.
Fortunately, Enter the Gungeon gives you some breathing room from this, and the game is more about clearing a room safely than squeezing between two of three thousand bullets on screen. You’re more likely to get hit by an enemy you failed to notice or account for than by a barrage, which are generally easy to dodge. You can upend tables to create makeshift defenses that crumble with enough bullets, and the ability to warp to just about any room on the level you’ve cleared once you’re in a room without enemies is a mechanic I would appreciate in a lot more of these games.
The problems come in mostly with the boss fights and the general progression of the game. The boss fights often DO turn into the kind of bullet hell that I’m just awful at, so that’s on me, but it’s certainly limiting how much I can enjoy the game unfortunately. This second point could be related, but after sinking about a dozen hours into it I don’t feel like I’ve made much progress. There are promises of shortcuts if I can do better which, to be frank, I probably can’t. I’m also a little disappointed by the fairly straightforward selection of guns I’ve seen thus far.
Comparing this to Moonlighter, which I just started last night, is not an apples-to-apples scenario by any means, but there are enough similarities to justify putting them under a shared critical lens. With that said, there are certainly people that will like Gungeon a whole lot more than Moonlighter, so, as with anything ever done by a person, this is just an opinion.
Moonlighter hews more to a Zelda formula than a bullet hell, which, to be fair, is already more in my wheelhouse. There’s also a story and a cute little town to build up, and the pixel art is absolutely gorgeous. The dungeon crawling is a little more chunky than a Zelda game, with sword strokes really digging into enemies, halting your movements for a moment. It’s a momentum you need to get used to, but definitely gives your strikes some heft. Dodging is also much faster than in Gungeon (and mapped to the left trigger instead of the bumper, thank god) and each room in a dungeon feels like a real danger.
The key thing that makes Moonlighter for me though is the store mechanic. Once you’ve had your fill of fighting in the dungeons, and (wisely) chose to exit before entering another room and risking death, you get to open shop. Apparently this poor bastard never sleeps. You put up the relics you collect in the dungeons for sale, guessing completely wildly at their price and then gauging the reaction of the customers to see if you should raise or lower it. I’ve certainly tried to sell a twig for 20 gold, which pissed off more than a couple people before I could change it to something palatable. On the other hand I’ve also sold relics worth hundreds of coins for a dozen, making my customers stupid eyes light up in happiness at ripping me off. Jerks.
The constant adjustment of prices and fine tuning your offerings to keep from flooding the market is made easy and immensely enjoyable with quick and easy menu options, and a very simple to read UI.
So while Moonlighter is going to be getting a lot more attention from me going forward, don’t dismiss Enter the Gungeon. Just get ready to train your reflexes to move without thinking or you’ll wind up where I am. Either way you’re sure to have a good time if you enjoy Roguelikes, and since both are still currently available pretty cheap it’s a great time to jump on it!