Dungeon-crawling and pinball: it sounds awesome, doesn’t it? It might not be a conventional blend of genres for a video game, but it’s what developer Flight School Studio has done with their new release Creature in the Well. It makes for an exciting and fun experience too, and one that’ll really put your skills to the test with the many challenges it sends your way.
Creature in the Well takes place in a world that’s in a dire state thanks to an eternal sandstorm, with the only means of bringing it back to its former glory being to activate a special machine that can disrupt the storm for good. The only problem is that this machine is placed in a dangerous mountain that just so happens to be the home of a huge, dangerous creature. Typical, right? It’s up to you to traverse through the mountain and activate the machine, all whilst avoiding the vicious grip of the creature that constantly seems to be lurking in the shadows and watching your every move…
So we’ve established that Creature in the Well’s gameplay offers an amalgamation of dungeon-crawling and pinball, but how does that work in-game? Basically, you’ll be blasting a ball of energy around an assortment of rooms, with the goal being to charge the obstacles you hit with the energy from the ball in order to clear the exit, all whilst amassing energy for yourself. The energy you earn can then be used to unlock doors and progress through each dungeon. You’ve got to watch out though: there are plenty of different types of hazards to look out for within the rooms of each dungeon, so you’ve got to make sure you keep moving around to stay out of harm’s way whilst still blasting the balls of energy around.
You know, I’ve probably made it sound much more complicated than it is, but it’s a simple process to get to grips you. You just blast balls around rooms pinball-style, do a little bit of simple puzzle-solving, and then clear each room out until you face the boss. Simple.
You’re armed with a weapon which can be used to smash the energy balls around, with a little arrow dictating the general direction that they’ll go. With multiple balls to consider though (and different types), smarter players will have to utilise their charge ability, which sees you holding the balls of energy when they connect with you, charge them up with more power, and then launch them out with more accuracy and speed. It’s the smart way to play, but it can leave you more open to hazards if you aren’t quick on your feet too, so it’s all about balancing it out with some swift movements. Pinball has never been the sort of thing to offer the player ultimate finesse in their shots, so these moments when you do have a bit more control are vital to your success.
Starting off in Creature in the Well can be intimidating, but it doesn’t take long before your skills start to get pretty slick. You get to a point where you aren’t simply mashing buttons and hitting balls around willy-nilly, but are hitting shots with pinpoint accuracy and watch the energy balls blast around corners and hitting multiple targets at once, all whilst dashing out of the way of any nasty obstacle that comes your way without a care in the world. Creature in the Well is already a super cool game anyway, but when you get GOOD at it, it goes to the next level. You’ll also unlock new abilities as you progress such as being able to slow down time, whilst your arsenal will also grow in size with new weapons that offer all sorts of different bonuses – some of these are more effective in particular dungeons too, so it’s worth toying around with them to see what works best.
The game definitely requires a lot more strategy than it might initially seem, and those who don’t have their wits about them can definitely expect to suffer a few deaths on their journey. That being said, a lot of those deaths might come down to some of the difficulty spikes – Creature in the Well definitely isn’t afraid to ramp up the challenge unexpectedly, especially when it comes to the boss fights. Now, this isn’t really a problem and it does a good job of keeping you on your toes, but I do wish that the checkpoints were a bit nearer to your place of death. Whilst you never have to replay sections all over again to get back to where you were, you are still expected to walk through them again from the last checkpoint in order to get back to where you fell. It just felt unnecessary.
Creature in the Well is generally a tense and exciting game to play, but it is guilty of feeling a little repetitive at times. New dungeons do send new gameplay mechanics your way and give you different hazards to be wary of, but the process of smashing around balls to gather energy can be a little tiresome in some areas. You’ll start to see some rooms repeat too, which felt a little bit lazy. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the rooms you encounter in the game offer some pretty epic moments, but when you see some of the same things over and over again it can be easy to start to tire of the formula a bit.
I’d be remiss not to talk about Creature in the Well’s presentation, which is bloody impressive throughout. I’ve always been a fan of games that adopt unique aesthetics, so naturally I was impressed with the vibrancy of Creature in the Well’s vivid world and the way that it uses colour in such a distinct manner. Honestly, the screenshots don’t do it any justice, and seeing the world in motion is sublime throughout. It’s brilliant stuff and I was left in awe at all of the weird and wonderful sights I saw throughout my journey.
Creature in the Well is an undeniably slick and unique experience that blends together action with pinball-like puzzling in a very satisfying way. Whilst the concept is simple, there’s a fair amount of skill and strategy required to progress – it’ll definitely take a bit of time to master its mechanics, but who cares when the action itself is so much fun?
The only real downside is that the game can feel repetitive at times, with some of the rooms you encounter utilising the same ideas over and over again. It’s not too much of a bad thing since the core mechanics of the game work so well, but I couldn’t help but to feel a little bored during the more repetitive moments.
Still, there’s a heck of a lot more good than bad in Creature in the Well and it certainly stands tall as one of the more unique titles I’ve played so far in 2019. It might not be perfect, but it’s SUPER COOL and will offer plenty of satisfying action to anyone who decides to play it.
Developer: Flight School Studio
Publisher: Flight School Studio
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC