Downwell Review – The Definition of Insanity

Published: January 13, 2016 9:00 AM /

Reviewed By:

Downwell Preview Image

Downwell is a creative platformer where your goal isn't to go up, but instead you to descend as far as possible into a well. It was created by the indie developer Moppin, also known as Ojiro Fumoto, with the music composed by Eirik Suhrke. The game was published by Devolver Digital. Downwell initially released on iOS and Windows on the 15th of October and will be releasing on Android some time in 2016.

In Downwell, it is your aim to guide your character as far into the well as possible. It also wouldn't be an adventure if you weren't faced with a variety of different monsters as you descended. As you take on these monsters, they will release gems. These can be used at a variety of different shops along the way to purchase upgrades and additional health for your character. There are also plenty of breakable blocks on your way down that can drop gems for you. Be careful though, as these blocks might sometimes be the only thing between you and certain death.

Gameplay in Downwell is fairly simple to wrap your head around. Around the screen you have your health, the number of diamonds in your current combo, your total number of diamonds and a meter showing how many charges left in your gunboots. You are able to move around and jump as you drop down the well. While falling you're also able to shoot from your gunboots, provided you have enough charges. These charges refill as soon as you land on solid ground so you don't need to worry about conserving ammo. You will start quite weak, but as you continue down the well there are opportunities to enter side passages where you can recover health, get a different style of shot, or buy upgrades with the diamonds that you have earned. More often than not you will be faced with the decision to either stay at low health with a good weapon or regain a heart and swap for something worse. At the end of each level you will also get the opportunity to select between a couple of upgrades for your characters, these could include an increase to max health, an increased number of charges, or a modifier like a gem magnet.

Downwell Freefallin'

Usually, you can use a Mario approach to take out enemies by stomping on their heads. If you don't want to do that they you can always shoot them with your boots. There are some differently colored enemies that will hurt you if you try to stomp them, so shooting is always a safer bet if your enemy is unknown. The fast falling combined with limited health can actually push players to either risk the suicide fall or to take each level as slow as possible. There will come a time in a run where you have to decide. Is it worth it to try to slowly work through all the enemies and die? Or, should you free fall in search of health and upgrades further on? It's all up to you as to how you want to tackle the well, but even if you mess up you just start at the top again and you get another go.

Downwell uses a retro graphic style reminiscent of the original Game Boy, and there are even filters that can make it look closer. The game runs extremely well on any computer, probably because it's also a mobile game, and has no graphical issues even when plummeting at top speeds. The mix of the retro graphics with fluid animations helps to give you a nostalgic feel while also not bogging you down in limitations of the older games that Downwell emulates. Other elements like the realistic bounce of the gems and explosion effects also show just how much effort has been put in the look of the game. Everything looks like it is meant to belong exactly where you find it.

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On top of the graphics, the audio in Downwell is also exactly what it should be. There is a great retro soundtrack playing as you fall down the well, combined with clear and concise sound effects for every shot fired and jump landed. It's easy to get immersed in the chiptunes of yesteryear. The music that plays as you descend down the well not only greets you with a sense of adventure, but also one of unease. This tone of music helps invest the player more in the adventure as they try to get further and further with each playthrough.

Downwell is a fun platformer game that will test your reflexes as well as your patience as you struggle to get just one level further. It plays as you would expect for a mobile game, but on PC it is still a great way to waste a bit of time. For those who enjoy the type of roguelike/endless runner style game where you go as far as you can and then have to restart then this might be a fun new addition to your collection. With the price of the game being so low, it's a game that is worth trying if you enjoy the genre or even if you think you might like it.

This game was provided to the reviewer by the developer and was reviewed on SteamIt is also available on iOS, and will be available on Android later this year.

Review Summary


A fun game that will keep your frustrated and wanting more but with short play time and quick turnaround it might be something you put down before too long.

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