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Posted by GG Goblin On February - 18 - 2019

Let’s go down a well.

While I am sure most people would reconsider any fleeting ideas they may have of jumping down a well, there are undoubtedly people out there who would consider it some kind of adventure. Firstly, I would suggest that they have their heads examined. Secondly, I would advise that they play Moppin’s Downwell, recently released on Nintendo Switch. This game may give them some idea of the hazards that come from dropping down a well, even if they happen to have a pair of gunboots on.

dw1 (Copy)

Downwell is a game about falling, mostly as great speed. The player is presented with a narrow shaft, filled with unknown dangers, and the only real goal is to reach the bottom. Failure to do so, usually through some kind of hazard found along the way, will result in the player starting all over again. Yeah, it’s pretty harsh.

However, the good news is that the player doesn’t have to think about managing all sorts of buttons during their fall. The character on screen can only move left or right, and only one other button is employed, which pretty much does everything else the player needs to do. This mostly comes down to the pair of life-saving boots that the character is wearing, boots that will allow the player to shoot bullets down into the depths, taking out enemies, clearing the way, and making the character hover briefly. You only have a limited number of bullets to use, so careful use of this skill is recommended.

However, the careful use of anything is very difficult when the player is falling at speed, and cannot actually see what is coming up. Enemies will turn up quickly and the player will have to make split-second decisions as to how they deal with them. They can jump on the enemies heads, shoot them with their gunboots, or just avoid them as they fall and hope they don’t give chase. Throw in a variety of different enemies, some of which are immune to certain attacks, and the player will find their choices much more limited. Of course, players can try to slow their decent by moving from one platform to the next as they go down, but then further traps and hazards will make that approach just as dangerous as a full on free-fall. From the very beginning, Downwell is a frustratingly difficult game, but as the player starts to recognise the different hazards, they will learn which actions to take and when, and then the possibility of actually advancing through the game opens up.

dw2 (Copy)

It’s not all doom and gloom in the dark though, as various power-ups will turn up during the fall. Small rooms off the side of the shaft may appear, giving access to stores in which the player can spend gems that they have collected in their decent on improved health or ammo capacity, and there are a number of different weapons that can be added to the boots, giving different attack patterns and the like, keeping the action varied. Projectiles aside, the action of actually jumping on an enemy will refill your ammo, and players will be able to build up a combo by killing enemies until they land on a platform.

The roguelike nature of the game means that dying and then having to start again from the beginning will give rise to a new layout, including the positions of enemies, hazards, power-up and and the like. This means that players will not be able to learn the layout of their shaft, and have to instantly react to everything as they approach it.

Downwell is, at least initially, presented in a very basic manner, with a black background along with white and red features. It is very retro in its style, but works well with the simple concept of the gameplay. However, the player will be able to unlock further display modes as they play, giving a nice variety of different colour schemes to the game. They will also be able to unlock some different modes that will make the game easier, such as providing more starting health, which is nice.

Perhaps the most important mode is known as the TATE mode. In regular play, either on the big screen or in handheld mode, the shaft is displayed as a thin strip in the centre of the screen. On the TV, it’s not so bad, but on the small Switch screen, it really is very little and makes the game infinitely more difficult. TATE mode is the answer to this, sort of. This mode allows the screen to be flipped by 90 degrees. This increases the screen size and makes everything that bit easier, but it also makes it a little more difficult to handle as the player will have to either prop the Switch up somehow, or buy a dedicated peripheral to hold the Switch on its side. There is the possibility to play with the Joy-Cons still attached in this mode, and the game takes that into account, but it does result in a top-heavy experience that feels too precarious to be comfortable.

dw3 (Copy)

Downwell is a twitchy, hardcore game for those who like the idea of dropping down a well. It is a very quick action game that will test the reactions of anyone who plays it. It is also quite fun, and continued play will see improvement and progress, which makes it great for some quick pick up and play action. It may be frustrating, but if mastering successfully falling down a well sounds like fun, then Downwell really is the only choice.




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