Downwell can be easy to dismiss at first glance. Its retro graphics and seemingly basic roguelike gameplay don’t immediately appear to be anything worth writing home about, but as you delve deeper into Downwell (literally), you’ll find something wholly addicting and satisfying about its gameplay loop.
With Downwell having just arrived on Apple Arcade, making it free for subscribers to the service, now is a better time than ever to give the game a go. If you’re a fan of spelunking (be it in Spelunky or in real life), this particular cavernous adventure is definitely up your alley.
You’ll play as Welltaro, a curious little character that starts his time in Downwell stumbling through the countryside. When he encounters a dark, bottomless well, he does something out of the ordinary (unless you’re into caving regularly); he straps on his Gunboots and dives right into the darkness. And the darkness has so many monsters — and treasure — for Welltaro to seek out.
In Downwell, you’ll very quickly realize that you’re endlessly falling down the depths of this well, coming across various monsters, treasures, and plenty of platforms to seek temporary safety on. Welltaro’s only protection — and only tool — throughout this adventure is his Gunboots, which can be used to shoot enemies and hover for a period of time when needed. It’s easy to start relying on Welltaro’s Gunboots, but soon enough you’ll realise — when ammo runs out, health is low, and you inevitably destroy platforms you may need to stand on — that this particular journey is going to require a little more strategy.
Fortunately for us, Welltaro can do some things without relying on his Gunboots too much. Some enemies simply require a stomp on the head to be quelled, and the power-ups that Welltaro regularly earns throughout his endeavors will also aid with things like his health pool and his damage capabilities, because as you progress, you’ll need to become more powerful to tackle the creatures and dark depths you're endlessly falling through.
There’s something very charming about just how simple Downwell is, and something rather meaningful about Welltaro’s exploration of the dark depths beneath this well. I don’t know about you, but the idea of encountering a well with the bottom that can't be seen does make me quite curious; when does it end? Where does it go? It doesn’t take a genius to work out the rational answers to these questions, but that doesn’t stop the more imaginative bits of my brain from asking what if. What if I could dive into that well and find something interesting?
Downwell very cleverly answers that, not only by providing a solid roguelike game that differentiates itself from others like it, but by also granting players the opportunity to dive into something very mystifying, packed with secrets and troublesome foes that will keep each run lively.
It evokes the same feelings in me that Vampire Survivors previously did. There’s a real adrenaline rush to be achieved by getting through a stage at lightning speed, or reaching a higher score than last time, or even encountering a new power-up that you can experiment with. There's endless replayability, and with a natural touch-screen control scheme of just three buttons that takes no time at all to get a hang of, Downwell — as it always has been — feels right at home on mobile.
If you’re thinking of diving into the dark void (and cute, albeit infuriating, monsters), Downwell is currently available on Apple Arcade for free to subscribers. It can also be played on PC via Steam for just £2.49 / $2.99, Nintendo Switch for £1.80 / $2 (currently on sale), and the PlayStation 4 or PS Vita for £3.99 / $4.99.