The rogue-light arcade shooter Downwell drops on Android for $3 after being available on almost every game platform out there for a couple of months up to this point. The game has been critically acclaimed since it was first unveiled at the Devolver Digital booth at PAX East 2015 in March.
Downwell’s story is not something to write home about, with your character being portrayed by a boy who decided to explore the well near his house. But this kid does have an ace up his sleeve, in the form of a pair of gunboots. While traveling through the well, you will use these boots to alter your speed and kill increasingly numerous monsters.
Bearing in mind that rogue-like games are technically turn-based grid RPGs with perma-death, Downwell can be classified as a rogue-light, or rogue-light-light, with the only similarity between it and the original Rogue being the concept of permanent death. Once you die, you start over from scratch at the beginning of the first level.
But that doesn’t mean that you won’t unlock different items along the way, Downwell having more or less the same progression mechanics like, for instance, The Binding of Isaac. Even if you die, your XP will be added to an overall progression bar which unlocks different stances and upgrades that can potentially change your playstyle by a hefty margin. The well’s layout, monster types, item rooms and power-up pickups will change as well after each subsequent playthrough.
The game itself is similar to a vertical shooter, the only difference being that you are going down, dodging different platforms and monsters along the way. The more you dodge platforms, which recharge your boots’ ammunition once you land on them, the more your multiplier grows. Item pickups consist of passive bonuses that give you a 10% increase to your score or XP, or more impactful ones.
Some items can completely change your playstyle, For instance, if you switch your normal machinegun boots with a shotgun, you will have to plan out your descent accordingly. Downwell’s visual aesthetic is heavily retro-inspired but that doesn’t make the game less enjoyable by any stretch.
If at first glance the game seems like some mindless gun-shooting fun, you could not be more mistaken in that assessment. If you actually plan to make it past the first milestones, you will have to plan accordingly, the game functioning like a puzzle instead of a shoot-’em-up. If you run out of bullets, you will have to continuously kill enemies and grab their gems or else you will be face-to-face with enemies without any means of defending yourself.
Bearing in mind that Downwell drops on Android for $3, smartphone users will have yet another compelling game to play on their work-break or in the subway. With usual playthroughs lasting between 3 to 10 minutes, depending on your skill, Downwell is the perfect game to play when you have just a short rbeak before returning to you normal daily tasks.