Think about for a second that you just’re taking a stroll within the countryside and also you occur upon an outdated effectively – what do you do? On the very least, you wander up and take a peek; you may drop a pebble down there, or perhaps a cheeky loogie if no one’s round. Why? It’s robust to say precisely, however Downwell faucets into that human fascination with the darkish, unknown depths. First launched again in 2015, we’ve waited months for this low-fi platformer/shooter hybrid to reach on Swap. Creator Ojiro ‘Moppin’ Fumoto not too long ago left Nintendo following a quick twelve-month tenure with the corporate and this model of his debut sport appears like one thing of a parting reward; it’s arguably the best technique to play this acclaimed indie title.
Coming courtesy of UK developer Pink Phantom Video games and US writer Devolver Digital, Downwell is a roguelike. We use the time period begrudgingly, realizing that it’s prone to flip off some individuals, however that’s what it’s. Falling down a monochromatic effectively with fashion is the order of the day, and most of that fashion comes from the pair of ‘gunboots’ strapped to your toes to cope with enemies beneath. They’re fired by tapping the bounce button in mid-air, which additionally lets you ‘hover’ for a short time, however your ammo is restricted and solely recharges while you land on one thing stable. Increasing your clip measurement past the measly eight bullets you begin with makes issues simpler – the sport turns into extra of a shooter the deeper you go. Whilst you begin with a primary shot, you possibly can decide up different weapons reminiscent of a laser, shotgun and a triple-shot, a few of which include caveats, reminiscent of utilizing up two items of ammo in a single shot relatively than the same old one.
Projectiles aren’t your solely offensive choice, although. Many enemies might be safely stomped on with out firing and doing so not solely reloads your clip, but additionally initiates a combo chain that’s damaged solely while you land once more. Gems might be discovered and spent on well being and ammo objects in outlets that pop up both aspect of the procedurally generated levels (there’s one more reason to gather these – bagging 100 gems in a brief interval triggers ‘Gem Excessive’, which makes your weapon extra highly effective). Time ‘freezes’ across the entrance to outlets and different caverns, enabling you to drop in and take a breather with out breaking your combo. Free upgrades can be found between levels (in normal mode) together with well being balloons which provide you with a free hit each stage, drones that duplicate your boots’ firing sample and numerous different perks.
Whereas your goal may be very easy, Downwell is a punishing sport in all the proper methods. You’ll begin off careening across the display and also you’ll doubtless have bother parsing the weather as they zip previous. Your mind is continually enjoying catch-up, registering collisions simply that break up second too late, and it would flip off gamers who’re used to 1-1 being a cake stroll. No matter your ability, it’s extraordinarily straightforward to lose focus for a second and find yourself knocking a few bars off your well being, even within the preliminary levels. Add in the truth that some enemies can’t be shot whereas others are impervious to go stomps, and issues grow to be sophisticated moderately shortly.
After some time, although, you acclimatise to the stream. Like using a motorbike, the trick is to maintain your eyes on what’s forward and belief your thoughts to log that data and act on it with out specializing in what’s straight in your face. It’s tempting to freefall as shortly as attainable to the exit, however gradual and regular invariably wins the race. If you happen to discover the usual gameplay too quick, unlockable different ‘kinds’ make issues just a little simpler: Levitate, for instance, slows down your descent with floatier physics, whereas Boulder offers you extra HP out of the gate. A few of these kinds include drawbacks, nevertheless, such because the elimination of upgrades in-between ranges or fewer outlets showing on the way in which down.
The default white/black/purple color scheme seems improbable however you’ll unlock a number of choices that replicate iconic palettes from retro consoles – we have been significantly a fan of the Digital Boy-inspired one. The animation seems nice on Swap’s display and efficiency is usually very clean. A number of enemy hits create just a little slowdown however nothing that feels misplaced; it’s robust to make sure it’s not there by design. The sport weighs in at a mercifully tiny 58.7MB, too, so this may truly slot in your console’s inner storage.
Regardless of its portrait orientation suggesting a cellular origin, this sport cries out for a D-pad, and it did launch concurrently on PC, arriving on Sony consoles shortly thereafter. In fact, Swap house owners have their very own D-pad woes however Downwell controls very effectively on the Pleasure-Con, and a sure third-party peripheral helps this gem shine even brighter.
The featured TATE mode flips the display 90° and the elevated measurement helps make every thing extra readable. In docked mode, you’ll should lie on the couch (until you wish to steadiness your telly on its aspect), however the easiest technique to play Downwell is with Fangamer’s excellent Flip Grip, an affordable little peripheral that gives a conveyable vertical expertise. It’s a little bit of disgrace that Hori’s D-pad Pleasure-Con gained’t work because of the pad’s lack of wi-fi connectivity, however we are able to hardly blame the sport for that. Downwell shoots proper to the highest of the record of causes to select up a Flip Grip.
For these with aversions to filling the home with but extra plastic doohickeys, you’re in luck – switching to TATE mode additionally adjustments the orientation of any connected Pleasure-Con, so that you want solely rotate the Swap in your palms to play vertically without having for additional attachments. A tad high heavy and never ultimate for lengthy play classes, it’s nonetheless a superb little bonus and illustrative of the care and a spotlight behind this port. You possibly can even use the Pleasure-Con connected to the highest of the console if the flamboyant takes you, or use your Swap On-line-exclusive NES pads for those who can’t survive and not using a D-pad. A single Pleasure-Con in both hand is another choice; solely touchscreen enter is absent, however we’re blissful to lose that.
This is a superb port of a sport that feels prefer it’s discovered a pure house on Swap due to a plethora of management choices and the console’s pure facility with vertical orientation. Wanting popping your 4K TV on its aspect, Swap gives the easiest technique to play Downwell. Its roguelike construction and twitch platforming may not be for everybody, however it is best to actually give it an opportunity. For our cash, it’s a contemporary basic that must be in everybody’s assortment.