For many people, mobile games have been their very first steppingstone into gaming – this market covers a lot of folks who wouldn’t necessarily invest in a dedicated system for gaming like a PC or console in order to play games. On the flip side to that point, there are many gamers that have dismissed mobile gaming as inferior due to business practices or the fact these games are played on an unconventional device. However, sometimes something really solid shines through from the mobile market and eventually makes its way over to more traditional gaming platforms… and one of those very games is Downwell.
Downwell first saw the light of day over on iOS platforms in 2015 and has now not only been ported to Android, but also the PS Vita & PlayStation 4 this year. Initially I had my doubts in eh early beginnings of the game as it reminded me of an endless runner, which (in my opinion) tend to have very little depth to them. But over time, the game grew on me and proved itself as a great example of mobile game potential.
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Reviewed on: PS Vita
Also Available On: iOS, Android, PlayStation 4
Release Date: Out Now
Downwell begins with a man walking through a park to discover a large, gaping hole in the ground. Curious about what is in the hole he dives straight in – but not before strapping on a pair of Gunboots (a bit like Bayonetta), ready to take on whatever lurks in this massive well. Out from the start it’s easy to see that Downwell is lacking in the story department but this isn’t a surprise, as just what makes the game stand out is its solid and addictive gameplay.
While going traversing through well’s deep, the player will encounter a variety of old school arcade looking creatures – like leaping frogs and floating slimes. You can take down these enemies by simply jumping on them but some enemies are protected by spikes, fire or electricity. For these more threatening of creatures creatures, you will have to rely on your Gunboots to take them down. Along with dealing with enemies, areas will randomly appear on the side of the wall. When approaching areas such as this, you will be tasked with collecting gems to buy health/energy upgrades in shops and cool new guns to use (like lasers and shotguns).
Each time you finish an area, you get to pick from a number of upgrades for the character. These allow you to suck in nearby gems, cause an explosion when you jump on an enemy and bullets to shoot out of blocks just to name a few. There are loads of combinations to try out between gun selection and upgrades, making each run feel different.
While the roguelike elements are the game’s main focus, it’s also its downfall, with certain aspects of Downwell’s becoming more of a frustration. It’s the old problem of working to collect upgrades/weapons without the ability to carry them over to your next playthrough – a trope that while enjoyably challenging for some, can be incredibly frustrating for other like me. With each time my character reset, I just felt like there was zero progress being made and this became infuriating after a number of bad runs. That said, there is one element that can carry over to different playthroughs and that is styles – which basically affect just how often you can find weapons or make items in shops cost less but it doesn’t take long to unlock all of the game’s five styles.
Although it was nice to see a wide selection of art palettes to select from when going through Downwell. You can choose the classic colour scheme of the original Gameboy and even the Virtual Boy graphics – I’m not fully sure why you’d want to play with Nintendo VB’s migraine inducing-style of graphics but hey, the option is there… happy days.
In the end I enjoyed playing Downwell – it’s great when played in quick installments, which isn’t surprising since this was first released as a mobile game. Gameplay is solid, there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to upgrades and weapons, and a wide selection of art palettes to switch between. While the character reset between runs can get annoying, it doesn’t take away the satisfaction I got from pulling off a long combo. Downwell is a game you should give a shot.
So while you won’t be playing the game for hours on end, Downwell is a fun quick game that is great to pick up every now and again.