The Game Tutor Grades Downwell

Simply Downwell is a roguelike descent game... but that really doesn’t paint this game as illustratively as I would like. I would rather describe this games as the vertical corridor sections in Metroid but you can only go down and it all happens very fast.

The game isn’t exactly the best looking game out there but a few minutes into your first play through it is abundantly clear that there is something to this retro inspired action game. As you descend the well stage by stage you are assisted by a pair of gun boots you are wearing (God knows why). These are useful firstly to kill enemies but also to help keep you afloat. As you progress through the game you can upgrade you boots contra style by picking up power ups and the weapons are all different enough that you will soon find your favourites. When I first started playing I spent most of the time shooting almost constantly as I fell and looking for the most powerful weapon but pretty soon you realise this isn’t the best tactic. Firstly because shooting also breaks blocks which you need to land on. Without platforms to land you might land on an enemy or miss a shop neither of which is a desirable outcome. The other important thing about landing is landing recharges your boots and this is needed to progress through the game. You eventually find a confident but thorough pace through the game… well until you get to stage 3 where everything runs under a time limit anyway.

The game obviously draws a fair amount of visual comparison from the Metroid series. While it obviously has a Spectrum look to it the vertical “corridors” scream Metroid as do the enemies that look like Metroids along with the other variety of Metroid type creatures that inhabit the well.
There are no continues in the game that spreads over 5 stages each split up into 3 sections and upon death you find yourself back up at the top of the well. At the end of each sub stage you are given a choice of upgrades ranging from a jet pack that slows your descent, an ability that shoots bullets upwards when you collect gems, a knife and fork that lets you eat enemies to replenish health and a drone that mimics your bullets.

All powerups and shops are in side rooms protected by time freezing barriers. This gives you time to recuperate amongst all the craziness.

As you play and gain gems a number of different styles and palettes are unlocked. Palettes simply change the visual look of the game. Whilst a fun little distraction the original colours are by far the best and I never really found myself inclined to use any others. The other unlockables are in the form of styles. These slightly alter the gameplay such as removing shops in favour of weapon upgrades or giving you more health at the expense of power up choices. While these are a distraction I found myself usually going back to the standard style.

Downwell is hard, but it is incredibly addictive and I found myself playing it again and again and again. At only £1.99 or your regional equivalent this really is one of the best game to money ratio games you will buy this year. Downwell is fantastic and I really cannot recommend it highly enough… more please.