Creature in the Well
Developer: Flight School Studio
Publisher: MWM Interactive
Genre: Dungeon Crawler, Puzzle, Pinball
Platform: PlayStation 4
Rating: PEGI 12
A code was provided for review purposes.
A Curious Combo
Have you ever added salt to a chocolate milkshake? It sounds crazy doesn’t it, just a good way to spoil a milky treat. But if you pluck up the courage and take that leap of discovery, you’ll never look back. Sometimes the most unlikely of things make a perfect match; like a plumber and a princess.
Creature in the Well is one of these magical mash-ups. It crosses a dungeon crawling hack-and-slasher with puzzled-based pinball mechanics, fantastically referred to as a “pinbrawler”. This game is by no means the first to fuse pinball mechanics with another genre. However, it does so in a very fresh, imaginative and satisfying way.
You play as Bot-C, an ancient mechanized engineer who reboots on the edge of Mirage, a small town sheltering from an eternal sandstorm at the foot of an imposing mountain. The mountain houses a temple and 8 monoliths that not only open doors to dungeons but operate a vast weather machine buried deep inside the mountain.
The weather machine has the power to blow away the troublesome sandstorm for good, and allow the citizens of Mirage to finally get some washing out to dry, but there’s just one issue… The eponymous creature in the well.
My guess is the creature must be into abrasive substances, as it has systematically disabled the ancient weather machine. So it’s up to you, the last remaining engineer, to blow off the cobwebs and get this weather mountain back up and running again. Luckily, the process is much more enjoyable than simply turning it off and on again.
Getting The Spin Of Things
You must traverse the 8 puzzling dungeons and power up the various systems of the vast weather machine. All the while under the eerie watchful eyes of the creature, who stalks and taunts you from the shadows of the well.
You achieve this goal by using two weapons to charge up balls of energy and launch them around the rooms to hit various bumpers and pressure switches. There are 16 different weapons to find and wield throughout the game, each one adding a different dynamic to game-play and puzzle solving, they all mix and match to form different play-styles and abilities.
Bouncing Off The Walls
The pinball mechanics start simple and effortless, teaching you the core principles, but soon spiral into complex and challenging puzzles. Late game rooms can become a challenging juggling act of powering up, striking, and catching balls of energy, while also dodging a whirlwind of hazardous projectiles, laser beams and shock towers. There’s a sizable difficulty spike at the midpoint of the game but it is not steep enough to deter the more casual players among us.
At the end of each dungeon the titular creature pulls you down to the depths of the well and wages war against you. These boss encounters were among my favourite and least favourite parts of the game. At times Creature in the Well can be challenging and frustrating but ultimately the sense of satisfaction when you finally figure out the trick to a room or clear a tricky boss fight is worth all the vexation of the past failures.
In truth there are only two small flaws in this charming little indie title. Firstly, there is a small amount of repetition within its dungeons, not enough to warrant real complaints, but it is a shame to see such a great and imaginative game mechanic suffering due to repetitive puzzle layouts.
Who’s The Hero?
Secondly, the name is wrong. Let me explain. The story in Creature in the Well is minimal and mysterious, just enough to keep us going while offering little answers along the way, it’s part of the style and charm of the game. We learn very little about the showboating creature, its origins or motivations. At the conclusion of the game we know as little about the creature as when our story began.
The real journey and story in Creature in the Well belongs to our robotic hero Bot-C, it is he who we follow, who discovers his origin and purpose in this world, who rises up to the present evil and saves the day. With that in mind, Robot in the Sand would have been a better name in my humble opinion.
That being said, Creature in the Well is imaginative and innovative. It has a gorgeous visual style, simple yet rich, almost soothing to the eye. Its soundtrack is subtle but perfectly upholds and adds to the tone of the game. Gameplay is fun while challenging and rewarding. There’s even secrets, unlockables and a thoughtful trophy list. What more could you want people?
In terms of indie darlings, Creature in the Well is close to being up there with the likes of Journey and Super Meat Boy. It’s well worth the very modest price tag and available now on the system of your choice, don’t miss out on this little diamond buried in the sands of indie titles.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Creature in the Well on PlayStation 4 using the link below:
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.