Challenge and speed make “Downwell” a blast


Photo credit: Vulcan Post

By Colin Haroutunian, Intern

Blasting through the depths of a well while surrounded by durable enemies, players will be pressed into split-second decisions and quick reactions to overcome the high-speed challenge of “Downwell.” With 2D graphics and ‘gunboots’ to support the player, the only way forward is down.

Beginning by falling down a well fixed with vertically-oriented cave systems, pushing upwards is not an option for escape. The player is primarily limited to controlling horizontal movement, yet can perform parabolic jumps and low-height boosts provided by ‘gunboots.’

The boots shoot damaging blasts out of the bottom, enough to kill enemies, too. The technique of controls should not be underestimated though, as the difference in altitude between a jump and a boost can be enough to determine life or death. This wonderful complexity to the light controls adds to the options available for the player.

While trailblazing the depths below surface, there is a wide array of enemies with differing resistances. Some are immune to being slammed when the player lands on them, others are safe from the rockets of the ‘gunboots.’

Besides defenses, enemies also move differently, with some crawling on the walls of the well, and others floating around generated blocks. The game’s creativity is best displayed through these traits, as each foe requires intense player knowledge, besides heightened awareness and evasion for the obstacles ahead.

Player health is also extremely limited, as the character can only take three hits before dying on the fourth. Any form of health boost is extraordinarily crucial, only available in a select few ways, as there isn’t regeneration over time. While adding insurmountable pressure upon the player, the limited health is beneficial to the unforgiving style of the game, as each choice the player makes is then weighed heavier for future actions.

Except that the game does have options to support the player on their journey. It isn’t so harsh once entering a shop, where the music is lighthearted and the shopkeeper is friendly, contrasting itself from the atmosphere of the well. There, health boosts and ‘gunboots’ charges are provided, and there are no enemies around. As a great way of boosting the player, the shop also provides a moment to relax and to comprehend all that is occurring. More or less, it is also acting as a rest stop, which is an excellent way to break apart the intensity of the game without disruptive pausing.

Caves, which provide a similar safe haven, serve as a way of obtaining gun modules and occasionally health or gems. These gun modules change the blast types of the ‘gunboots,’ giving players the ability to shoot upon enemies with multiple blasts at once or vertical laser beams. Unfortunately, many of the gun modules don’t have descriptions or displays as to how they affect the player, leaving them to find out on their own, which could hinder a trial. The gems, which can also be obtained by killing enemies too, can be later used at a shop, a balanced manner of implementing a trade system.

As a demanding game requiring extreme focus to overcome the multiple enemies and the low health available, ‘Downwell’ has few drawbacks to its presentation and is certainly a game to play for its challenging pressure.