No matter how many times the “You Died” screen pops up, I restart and keep pushing forward. Enter the Gungeon is punishing and hilarious. And its incredibly bad-ass soundtrack is what I love most about it.
This year I discovered Doseone. After seeing him perform at Devolver Digital’s E3 parking lot party in June, I immediately purchased the soundtrack to Dodge Roll’s roguelike bullet hell game, Enter the Gungeon.
As the composing musician for 2015's Enter the Gungeon, and an artist with a discography that’s extensive both within and outside of the world of video games, I feel slightly ashamed I did not know his music before.
In the months before the game’s appearance on the Nintendo Switch’s eShop in mid-December, I listened to the soundtrack almost non-stop. It’s an understatement to say I was impressed by Doseone’s live performance. But it’s easy to see why given that Enter the Gungeon’s music is pure fire. Playing the game these past couple of weeks highlights how seamlessly the music fits into the game’s narrative, while bringing that energetic, high intensity sound to score the frantic bullet hell gameplay.
As previously mentioned, Enter the Gungeon is funny. The game begins with a brief story as to what the gungeon is, and why players flock to seek the treasure within. The title track is used in a smart way. Not only does it announce the game’s title but the words are also used to tell a portion of the game’s lore.
I’ll admit that when I listened to the music before playing the game, I didn’t much care for this particular song. The sing-song quality of it was too cheesy given the ferocity of almost every other track in the game. Having now played the opening sequence, I better understand the silliness of it is (unsurprisingly) absolutely intentional—and this is why I have rules about not listening to video game soundtracks before playing the actual game. Some of the context is lost.
Before enter the first chamber, it’s eerie and the music expresses that well. Nerve-wracking sounds seem to swirl around the area. But then, you meet the tutorial keeper and later, some of the cute enemies that inhabit the gungeon. The gun-toting, over-sized bullet characters with beady eyes are so precious that they couldn’t possibly be so dangerous, right?
Things move quickly in Enter the Gungeon leading to an endlessly repetitive cycle of destruction followed by death. Its rhythmic flow in gameplay is aided by the matching beats put forth by the heart-pounding soundtrack. Rolling, dodging and shooting is fun when accompanied by music that speaks that same language. Take a listen to this, for example:
This is one of the first tracks that blared when I first started playing. This track, “The Lead Lord’s Keep” is the perfect companion for unceremoniously kicking over cheese wheels on wooden tables for use as cover. The opening notes come in steadily and relentlessly, setting the tone for the gameplay. The underlying beat never goes away even as the layers change around it. Within the game, this track plays when the terribly cute enemies launch their attacks. In-game, the song gets punctuated with the comical sounds of your enemies’ dying cries, which are equally as darling as their physical appearances.
During one of my many attempts at gungeon crawling, I managed to survive for eight plus minutes in a single run. I’m a cautious player in all games, which is something I realized I needed to cast aside for Enter the Gungeon. I came to this conclusion when my newly found confidence was dashed as literal bullet hell truly broke loose. It happened when I encountered my first boss, Gatling Gull.
I knew I was in for a world of hurt based on his appearance. His biceps were infinitely larger than my character. I had enough time to chuckle at the pun his name provided and the slick animation introduction. I didn’t have more than two minutes to spend with the impressive boss music because I was laid to waste.
In my short meeting with Gatling Gull, I not only felt the beatdown but heard all the fury thrown into his attacks via the soundtrack. As I woefully dodged his oncoming assault, I tried to dance step my way to victory. All the while with my head bopping as the track, “Boss Battle Beating” escorted me on my way to annihilation.
The build up in the opening of that track did its job of instilling fear into me. It was also a great introduction to the horrifying beast I faced. Expectedly, I failed. I laughed when I did because the little animation of my character slumping over was familiar to me at this point. It signalled that I tried my best but really, I could do better. I restarted, going through the motions of gunning down the game’s charming, silly tongue-in-cheek bullets with guns characters.
Enter the Gungeon is fun enough to want to pick yourself back up and try again. Knowing death comes frequently helps. There’s a sense of security in acknowledging that maybe I’m terrible at this, but the game also expects that of me. Doseone’s fast, trippy, and ultra cool beats certainly helps to motivate. I know there’s so much left for me to hear, too. If I can survive the depths of gungeon hell, that is.
Going through the process of dying, respawning, and busting up adorable enemies feels great. Having exhilarating music playing as the soundtrack to these multiple deaths feels even better.
Header image source: Nintendo. All other images via screen capture.