We review Downwell for the iPhone/iPad, a fast-paced vertical action game that has you plunging down a well shaft, blasting gribblies with your gun boots.
Downwell will immediately look and feel familiar to fans of old-old-school blaster games from well back in the day. Forget about plot or fancy 3D graphics; Downwell is all about frantic blasting as your wee pixellated fella tumbles down a seemingly endless well shaft filled with all manner of nasties.
Controls are nice and simple, which makes Downwell perfectly suited to the iPhone’s touchscreen. Two arrow keys at the bottom of the screen allow you to veer left and right, changing direction in mid-air if wished, while the final button is used to jump. Tap the jump button again while you’re in mid-air and you’ll unleash a fury of bullets from your magic boots (although it actually looks like you’re pooping on enemies with the default gun). You can’t change aim here: you’re forever falling and shooting downwards.
Like those old-school games, there’s no save system or anything either. When you lose your four lives, that’s you dead and back to the start. However, you can pick up extra lives and other power-ups during your descent, as well as super-powerful new guns to take down anything hovering in your way. You’ll even find the occasional shop to blow your hard-won crystals on health and guns.
Each level is short, taking perhaps a minute or two to complete, with the incentive of a bonus power-up waiting at the end of each. And don’t worry if you do meet a horrific demise (which you will, over and over) because each descent contributes to your overall XP, which builds to unlock new features.
So, is Downwell actually fun? In short, yep. Once you find your groove and speed your way through an entire level without taking a hit, it’s immensely satisfying. The difficulty level ramps up as you progress through the caverns but the game never feels too unfair and the short-burst gameplay means Downwell is perfectly suited to a 5-10 minute blast as you wait for your train.
You can download Downwell right now from Apple’s App Store.