Strap gunboots to your feet and drop down an endless well. Downwell is out now, and it’s an absolutely glorious arcade game packed with awesome mechanics at a low price.
While certainly not a formal review, let this post serve as my wholehearted recommendation for Downwell. The game is out now on the PC and iOS platforms, and it’s coming to Android soon. It’s selling for $2.99. I haven’t played it on the phone since trying it out at PAX East this past spring, but I’m obsessed with it on my PC with a gamepad.
What’s the deal here? Well, Downwell is so good because it features a really tight and intriguing gameplay loop. Basically, you jump into a well and fall down through each level. In your path are a variety of enemies, ledges, secret rooms, shops and destructible blocks. The hook here is that you want to shoot the enemies (or land directly on the ones without spikes), kill them, collect the gems and pop into secret rooms without touching the ground. Your gunboats have infinite ammunition, but they must be reloaded. You reload as soon as you touch the ground of bounce off of an enemy. Touching the ground ends your combo. Building those combos earns you more in-game money and ammunition.
As you beat each level, you’ll be greeted with an unlock that adds something to your abilities. Maybe a drone will follow you, maybe gems are attracted to you or maybe shooting blocks causes an explosion. I haven’t seen all of the upgrades yet, at least I don’t think I have, and they each add new layers of mechanics to the game.
When death comes after each randomly generated trip into the well, and it will, your progression will translate into earning points and unlocking content. The content you unlock might be as simple as a palette swap turning the game from black and red to an incredible pastel shade of blue and pink. Or, you’ll unlock new modes that change up the items you find or the health you start with.
This really tight loop coupled with how good the gunboots feel makes Downwell easily one of the best games I’ve played this year. I don’t say that lightly. This game is very, very good. If you’ve got $3 laying around, pick it up. Here’s the game on iOS, and here it is on Steam.