Creature in the Well
When Creature in the Well was introduced earlier this year at GDC, the weird combination of top-down action gameplay and pinball mechanics surprised us, especially by the idea that no one had really ever thought of it before. Now, as the game's release date looms in the next few weeks, I was given the opportunity to go hands-on with the game in an extended demo.
The game takes place across several dungeons that operate on power costs. Rather than, say, finding small keys in treasure chests, players absorb power by bouncing pinballs off of things and use that electricity to open up long-derelict doors. They do this at the express displeasure of the Creature residing in the well, a somewhat larger-than-life figure that controls the nearby town through fear and intimidating. As the creature has a difficult time stopping your protagonist, a somewhat revive-happy automaton, it has also committed to ensuring that the village around the dungeons does not want to work with you.
It feels reductive to say that Creature in the Well's mechanics are just a combination of pinball and action, but it's definitely not insulting to be that reductive. The game plays with those mechanics in interesting and often novel ways, in a way that feels like how level creators in Super Mario Maker create fascinating new ideas within a limited toolset. Puzzles in the game take the pinball concept about as far as it can go, using switches and levers and timing to balance both solving skills and execution.
In one example, two turrets were firing balls at asynchronous rates. The player has to wait for them to get close to matching up, flip a switch to put the balls inside of two brackets to bounce between and eventually eliminate, while also firing on a third wall repeatedly in the middle while not moving from the position that depresses the button keeping the walls up. If it sounds easy, then that's a failure of description, as you soon realize that catching the balls back in the middle yourself can push you back off the button, making a triumph of timing into a long sigh and a loop back to the beginning.
That's also where different equipment comes in, as well. Different weapons have different properties, so some swords power up balls faster, while another crucially does not knock you back when when you intercept the momentum-based balls.
The game's art also bears special mention, which is inspired by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, and is probably Creature in the Well's biggest star. The sandy, desert regions remind you of Journey and the game's soundtrack matches the mood surprisingly well.
Creature in the Well is coming to Xbox One, Switch, and PC on September 6.