13th Sep2019

‘Creature in the Well’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

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A quite unique blend of dungeon-crawling and pinball, Flight School Studio has created a stunning blend of genres that works so well that I’d be more than happy to see it become the grandfather of a niche sub-genre pop up for us all to enjoy.

You play as the last remaining BOT-C unit, your quest is to venture deep within a mountain to restore power to an ancient facility, all the while being taunted by the mostly unseen titular creature, which hides in deep darkness, peering at you and occasionally muddling your plans with its skeletal arms reaching out of the plunging blackness beneath your tiny form (*ruffles hair* “Goodnight, son!”).

Played from a top-down viewpoint, Creature in the Well plays extremely smoothly. The crisp and defined visuals never stuttered, even when playing with the Switch in handheld mode, making for a visually appealing ride which is key when playing games such as this where precision is paramount. The main game play mechanic just feels ‘right’ and is always satisfying as you move deeper into the mountain complex to power up the long-forgotten generators.

The main thrust of the game play is progress, with only a handful of other characters to interact with, most of your time is spent heading further into the mountain solving geometry-based puzzles along the way. Your controls are based around a dash function (which comes in VERY handy in the more challenging sections) and two types of attack, one which juggles and charges the orbs (pinballs) that you come across and a secondary button that bashes them forward across the rooms into enemies, bumpers and, well…anything in its way. Initially you just have to hit bumpers to gain enough power to open doors and proceed, it’s not long, however before there are deadly lasers and cannons that need to be either ‘changed’ (read: ‘hit’) to fire orbs that you can use in the puzzles or just avoided altogether, in fact speaking of ‘avoiding altogether’ the design really opens up the game to all players.

As your power bar is stored and doesn’t deplete upon death, it means if you reach a room that you can’t complete, by working back through the chambers up to your last point, you can either re-complete previous rooms, thereby raising your power or just run through them all and use your bar to open the door in the room you were struggling in. This neat little design choice means that you don’t tend to hit a ‘wall’ in the game and gives it a sense of further fluidity in a difficulty curve sense, you are constantly advancing. Upon death, the creature dumps you outside the complex for you to jump straight back in with no real loss of progress, just that sense of attrition mentioned above should you wish to raise your level by completing some puzzles again.

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As Creature in the Well is so focused on game play with the narrative being basically slowly unfolded through the creatures’ comments and taunts, it’s great to find it so pleasurable throughout. I never got bored of a well-placed whack that sent the orbs pinballing around the room, taking out an enemy node and then bouncing all over a central hub, raising my power up into the thousands, it always gives a sense of satisfaction. There are also secret paths should you complete certain rooms in specific times / point limits, these lead off and allow you to pick up upgrades and new weapons that you can flick between in your inventory. The game, much like Hyper Light Drifter (which it shares some designs with) doesn’t guide you, instead letting you find out what certain items / locations do. An example of this was after the first boss where my health was, as the Romans used to say, ‘not looking too good’ and it dawned on me that I hadn’t come across any pick-ups at all, of any sort. It was only when I wandered into a white pool in the hub that I noticed that it filled my health bar, so it’s worth being aware of the items you pick up etc. and exploring all rooms fully.

In summary, I really like Creature in the Well, it’s well-designed with satisfying puzzle mechanics and the variety of noises that each item make as you clock around the orbs with everything from a lead pipe and baseball bat to a frying pan (surprisingly addictive) adds a touch of variety to the proceedings. This is a game I’d definitely recommend giving a bash if you like the look of the trailer as this is a single-player experience that really works and feels unique. All that and no slam-tilts.

Creature in the Well is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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