[Beyond PlayStation] Downwell Review
Devolver Digital has brought Downwell to Nintendo Switch! Learn more of this must-have indie gem for Nintendo’s hybrid console in our Downwell review!
Downwell is a game I have enjoyed playing on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita since its release back in 2016. The game is a perfect example of the “pick up and play” variety of video games anyone can quickly get the hang of and enjoy, even if they had never heard about it or played it before. While the game was previously released on mobile, the precise platforming and shooting action greatly benefited from having actual physical control inputs on PlayStation 4 and now, thanks to the nature of the Nintendo Switch, it not only has great physical control inputs, but it can also be played at home or on the go without any hassle.
What do you do in Downwell, you ask? Well, the name’s name pretty much sums it all: you take control of a character that is going down a well. This one is a 2D action platformer, so you’ll be moving around with the left analog stick or the D-Pad while using the B button to jump (or the A, X, Y, L, R, ZL or ZR buttons). When you jump, you actually fire the weapon on your shoes, and once you’re not on the ground you can press the B button, again and again, to shoot downwards – that is as long as you have enough energy left in your bar, which is displayed on the right side of the screen. You have a set amount of hit points, and once they’re gone, you’ll be sent back to the start of the well.
Since the game is of a procedurally generated nature, every time you start a new run down the well the levels’ layout and enemy placement will be different. So while the overall feeling will be the same, you can’t just memorize a level’s layout and try to do a better run the second time by perhaps jumping on that enemy at the start, dodging a platform to your left so that you can land on that turtle on the middle of the screen before shooting at some spikey enemies you can’t land on, all before crashing on top of the two bats hugging the left wall so that you can maximize your combo. That does not mean you CAN’T do everything I’ve just mentioned, but you’ll have to do it quickly and adapt on the fly as you go.
Each of the levels in the game will have caves to the left or the right of you, as you fall down the well. Some of them will have piles of gems for you to shoot at to release them so that you can add them to your count. Others will contain different weapon capsules you can collect to change the weapon you’re using. Since each weapon has its own unique attack burst, and because each weapon uses a different amount of energy, you’ll need to see if changing weapons is a good idea depending on the level you’re in and the type of enemies you’re up against.
And then, there are the random shops you’ll find in the game! These shops will allow you to use the gems you’ve collected so that you can purchase items that can help you recover some of your hit points – thus, in theory, extending the duration of your current run-, or you might get a chance to purchase items that can increase the total length of your energy bar so that you can shoot more times before your energy runs out, forcing you to land on solid ground to recharge. There are also items that combine both benefits, but you do need to know these are usually the more expensive ones.
The gems you collect will allow you to unlock new color palettes for the game, as well as new XXX. The default color palette for Downwell is aptly titled Downwell, and it’s a lot of red, black, and white. As you collect more gems, they will be added to your overall tally, unlocking new palettes such as Matcha (green), Aqua (blue), or the homage GBoy (you can probably guess what this palette looks like). You will also unlock new styles as you collect gems. You start out with the standard Usual style, but you can also, for example, unlock the Levitate style, which makes your character a bit more floaty.
Once you complete a stage, you’ll be given the option to select one bonus perk from the three options the game presents to you. There is a nice variety of perks to choose from as you complete each stage, so you might run into one perk that rewards you with a 10% discount at the shop while also making it so that a shop spawns right at the start of the next stage you play, one that makes it so when you shoot the bodies of your dead enemies they explode, one that heals you by a single hit point while making it so that after completing the next stage you actually have four options from which to choose your perk instead of the usual three.
You can also try to unlock some of the available in-game trophies as you play. There are 23 trophies in total, with one of them acting in a way similar to how Platinum trophies behave on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, where you get said trophy after getting all the others. As for the rest of the objectives you can complete, some include completing a level without taking any damage, completing a level without visiting any rooms, completing a stage without shooting (yes, not even once!), doing a 10 hit combo, beating each of the areas in the game, and more.
Downwell is a very fun arcade-style 2D action platformer release that is a must-have on Nintendo Switch. On top of everything else I’ve mentioned, the Nintendo Switch version has one extra Ace up its sleeve: Tate Mode! You can go into the options menu and change the game’s display option from the usual horizontal setting – which means you have a lot of empty around the vertical action taking place in the center of the screen – to a vertical display, which works wonderfully well when you’re playing in Portable or Tabletop mode, displaying the action on the entire vertically oriented screen of Nintendo’s hybrid console, which makes this the definitive console version of the highly addictive game.
This Downwell review is based on a Nintendo Switch copy provided by Devolver Digital.