Nintendo Switch received one of the finest roguelike indie games in the business earlier this year with The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+. Now it has another in Enter The Gungeon. Much like Edmund McMillen's reworked masterpiece, ETG takes the basic form of a top-down twin-stick shooter. Dodge Roll's game, however, has an obsession with firearms and gunplay that would seem unhealthy had it not been executed with such spirit and humour.
Your lone gunslinger (chosen from a selection of four) enters a multi-layered dungeon populated by an assortment of anthropomorphic gun paraphernalia. You'll be shooting bullets in both senses of the phrase, which is admittedly rather odd. Surprisingly, the whole gun world premise sticks, and that's largely thanks to Dodge Roll's painstaking world and myth-building work. Every gun you fire, boss you fight and item you collect has a story to accompany it, with each fresh discovery filling out your dusty Ammonomicon.
It also helps that Enter the Gungeon doesn't take itself at all seriously. There's a rich seam of humour running through everything, from the puntastic boss and item names to countless cheeky pop culture references. It looks great too, with an expressive pixel art style and fluid animation. Who knew that a homicidal bullet with a human face could be so thoroughly charming?
All of that would be for nought if the core gameplay wasn't up to scratch. Thankfully, this is where ETG is at its strongest. The feel of the game's second-to-second action is among the best you'll find on Switch. There's a weightiness to the combat and a nimbleness to the movement system that makes it a pleasure to return to the game again and again. ETG manages to strike the ideal balance between empowering you and making you feel perilously vulnerable. The screen is usually filled with bullets of all shapes, sizes, and movement patterns, but these glowing projectiles always feel avoidable.
Enemy bullets typically move very slowly, so you can sidestep them like Neo in bullet time if you have your wits about you. The randomised levels typically throw up plenty of cover opportunities too, and you can even turn over tables to form your own on the fly. Get ready to live out your favourite Western fantasies. But the key to ETG's dance-like combat is there in the name of the developer itself. Hit the 'L' button and your gunslinger will execute a dodge roll, offering a brief window of invulnerability. It means that you can be confronted with a literal wave of death and still emerge unscathed.
Of course, a twin-stick shooter is nothing without its firearms, and here too ETG excels. There's a dauntingly vast roster of pistols, rifles, shotguns and who-knows-whats for you to unlock and discover here. Real-life gun equivalents sit alongside conceptual jokes, like a letter 'r' that spits out the letters to the word 'bullet', or a T-shirt gun that leaves crumpled up clothes strewn across the levels. We've pumped countless hours into ETG now both here and on other platforms, and it continues to throw up new surprises.
The odds are far from stacked in your favour, however. The sheer weight of enemy numbers, some tough boss battles and the cruel hands that the game's random spawns can deal out all ensure that you'll be dying plenty. Once you're dead, moreover, it's back to the start for you.
We usually say this when a beloved indie game comes to Switch, but ETG really does feel at home on Nintendo's console. Being able to play such a brilliantly rewarding twin stick shooter on the go is a real treat, while hooking the game up to your TV and using the Pro Controller brings its own precision-related rewards. Local co-op also makes the cut, though you'll need a second pad or set of Joy-Cons to play it.
Better yet, ETG on Switch will be receiving the Advanced Gungeons And Draguns Update in early 2018, providing even more guns, items and levels. This really is a game that keeps on giving, and action-loving Switch fans owe it to themselves to give it try.
Enter The Gungeon is a brilliantly tactile, endlessly replayable twin-stick roguelike that sits right up there with the very best indie games on Nintendo Switch. With satisfying combat, random levels, and an endless supply of inventive weapons, items and secrets, it's always a total joy to play. Yet another modern indie classic has found a natural home on Nintendo's console.