Strap on your Gunboots and dive into Downwell, an arcade-style platformer with roguelite elements. Jump into a deep well filled with noxious creatures like bats, squids, and frogs. Shoot them with your Gunboots or land on their heads to take them out. But solid-colored enemies hurt you on contact, so avoid landing on them and do your best to shoot them instead. Fall deeper and deeper into the well to progress, and see how deep you can get!
Roguelite elements include permadeath, an invitation to keep grinding and improving with each run, procedurally generated levels, and a random assortment of upgrades to choose from at the end of each level. One upgrade causes broken blocks to shoot gunfire upwards; another lets you regain health from eating dead bodies; a “pretty balloon” explodes enemies on contact.
The vertically oriented gameplay can feel fast-paced, but your Gunboots slow your fall with each shot, and solid platforms and breakable blocks let you survey the area below. Killing enemies and breaking certain blocks releases gems, which are used to buy health and charges (for your gun) from shops. Shops are tucked inside tiny caves protected by bubble-like Time Voids that stop time for everything but you. Caves may also contain items like guns, health, and gems, so visit them whenever possible.
Being a roguelite, you’re expected to die a lot, but every unsuccessful run is still rewarding. The gems collected during a run unlock new play styles, like a floaty gravity mode, and new color palettes, like “MATCHA.” Dedicated players will improve with each run, and with all the upgrades, play styles, and color palettes on offer, each run of Downwell feels vastly different from the last.
Expect fluid gameplay and tight but simple controls. Move left and right, and press B to jump and shoot. You can only shoot if you’re airborne, so jump and/or fall when gunfire is needed. Ammo is limited, but recharges when you touch the ground or land on an enemy’s head. (The exception? Landing on a solid-colored enemy’s head!) Various Gunboots are hidden throughout the levels, including machine guns, laser beams, and shotguns. Each set of Gunboots has its own pros and cons, and you’ll have to adapt to whatever set you find.
Downwell’s 8-bit graphics are authentically retro, as if they were ripped right out of a polished NES title. Your character is essentially a stick man, and your enemies feature simple yet charming designs. Some players could find the graphics boring if the default red, black, and white color scheme were the only one on offer, but we’ve already unlocked 20+ palettes in just 5 hours of play, and we have no idea how many more are available.
Eerie chiptune music sets a perfectly retro tone, but the sound of gunfire is the real star of the show. We’re not sure why the gunfire is so much louder than the music, but we appreciate it. The loud gunfire also adds a touch of realism, since the blast of a shotgun or machine gun in real life would drown out any music in the background. We love playing Downwell with the sound on, but it’s also a great game to mute while you listen to music of your choice.
At its price point, Downwell is an absolute steal, and it might even be the best value you’ll ever find on the Nintendo eShop. This indie appeals to gamers of all kinds, from beginners to expert platformers. Most players probably won’t get very far at first, but progression is always possible with enough effort, and even failed runs result in new play styles and color palettes. If Downwell even remotely interests you, give it a try today—you’ve only got $2.99 to lose!
Platform – Nintendo Switch eShop Download
Publisher – Devolver Digital
Developer – Moppin
Price – $2.99
Genre – Arcade, Action, Adventure
Size – 58.7 MB
Nick and Sarah are the ultimate gaming couple. Nick introduced Sarah to the world of Nintendo games. Nick’s favorites are platformers tough as nails, like Super Meat Boy, Celeste, and The End is Nigh. Sarah prefers titles with more exploration and simulation, like Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, and Skyrim. But Nick and Sarah both agree that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the best games of all time!