Pinball is the ultimate ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’ game; on the surface you can easily smash a ball bearing around a table using the flippers. Get to understand a table a bit better, and you can hit the ramps effortlessly each time and rack up high scores. Become the ultimate pinball wizard… and you probably have too much time on your hands.
Creature in the Well is best described as a pinball platformer where players need to hit balls around the map, targeting certain areas. Unfortunately, unlike pinball, this basis for the game is introduced in the first few minutes and then continues for the rest of the game without any further elements added at all.
You play as the last remaining BOT-C unit and must travel through the dungeons of a mountain facility to restore power to the facility and neighbouring towns, ridding the world of a giant sandstorm that rages on just outside the city. This unnamed facility was once home to thousands of BOT-C units but now you are the only one left.
But where does the Creature in the Well fit in? Well that is a being that hides in the shadows of the mountain waiting for any unsuspecting victim to enter the mountain, and then hurl unnecessary criticisms your way. They are never fully visible to the player, but their skeletal arms and bandages are ominous enough that you know you don’t want to see them fully.
Gameplay is a unique mix of hack and slash, platforming and pinball. Your BOT-C unit can equip two types of tools: Strike tools and Charge tools. Strike tools are used to hit the orbs, but Charge tools power them up beforehand, giving them more power. You hit these orbs towards various structures on the floor to power them up with charge, and in doing so earn charge to then open up the doors in your way.
Some obstacles though will attack back with the orbs in the form of turrets, or attack you by forming light bridges between two points that cause damage if you are stood inside them. There is a steep difficulty curve with the game, but thankfully if you ever do fall you are just picked up by the Creature in the Well and dropped back into the abandoned town. You can then quickly run through to where you managed to get up to last time without having to replay the level.
Some dungeons have health pools dotted through the dungeons. These are not frequent, but always welcome.
After an initial training area, the game opens up and you have to beat eight separate dungeons. Each dungeon has several rooms that must be completed, but also lots of side rooms with secrets to uncover. These side rooms can contain new tools and capes, such as frying pans, wooden spoons and baseball bats.
Make it to the end of one of the dungeons and there is a boss battle of sorts where you fight waves of enemies whilst trying to complete the area puzzles around you. Complete these and you reach the control panel to turn on but around these final rooms are lore tidbits. These are a nice touch and help flesh out the world around you.
The action does get quite frantic in places and you constantly need to be on the move whilst collecting orbs and striking them in the correct direction. All this is introduced within the first few minutes, and then, by the end of the game, it is the exact same gameplay with very little change from the beginning. There are no real new enemies introduced, or different puzzles to solve; after only a short time even the rooms start to look the same.
Where the game excels though is in its’ artstyle. It is easy to get drawn into it. Straight away you get this feeling of dilapidation all around you from the buildings and general disrepair that everything has fallen into. Even wandering through the sandstorms and getting lost in them has a unique look and feel about it, it is a very beautiful and melancholic game.
A complete run of Creature in the Well on Nintendo Switch will take around six hours in total. But even with the gorgeous artstyle, lore information, and will to unravel the mystery of what has happened, the main gameplay struggles to stay entertaining for anything more than an hour. It’s a simple cycle of charging orbs up, whacking them in the direction they need to go, then collecting new orbs – or gathering up the same ones – and doing the same again. Once you unlock the Charge tool, that’s as much of an upgrade as you will be getting, and all later dungeons are variations of the earlier ones. Even with a variety of Strike and Charge tools to find in the secret areas, these are mainly cosmetic. There are the odd ones that have a line that highlights where the orbs will go or better charging for the orbs, but many don’t have any additional powers going for them. Sadly, an increasing difficulty curve isn’t enough on its’ own to keep things entertaining.
Release date: September 2019
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review)
Massive thanks to: Flight School Studio