A dungeon-crawling narrative pinballer is not a game I expected to be spending time with.
As an elevator pitch, this would not be a simple sell, nor something easily articulated.
But on paper, Creature in the Well is a game that somehow manages to work, defying every convention set before it.
I guess it falls somewhere between a Yoku’s Island Express and a Moonlighter, yet it’s not like either of those games at all. This plays like nothing else out there and that’s hugely to its credit.
As hard indie as it gets, Creature in the Well starts by asking what’s beyond a sandstorm, past the huts, mountains, and shedded trees.
As you scour the desert wastelands, pipe strapped tightly to your back, part of you might be wondering what it is you’re letting yourself in for.
A narrative-driven, heart-wrenching adventure like Journey, perhaps. But then you step inside a cavern, seeing an arm creeping out from the darkness, and wonder if you’re looking at a Metroid lite.
That’s when you first take your pipe to a small white electro-orb, and see it bounce off walls and bumpers, amassing power in your energy banks so you can open doors. Suddenly, you’re playing pinball, and it’s a bit of a mindfuck.
I’m hacking and slashing at this ball, adjusting my aim based on the layout of the room and sometimes charge striking to hit bumpers and enemies far away.
Then just as I’m getting into the rhythm of it all, I’m dodging lasers, hitting multiple balls, and moving between platforms, There’s secrets to uncover and bosses to take down.
I can collect new weapons to hit the balls, each having a different effect, and I can gather upgrades to improve my overall competency.
And then there’s the twist as you start to learn more about this Creature in the Well and what sort of relationship you have with this unseen entity.
Frankly, this is a fascinating game that really puts the pedal on the accelerator in terms of difficulty and puzzle-solving.
It plays with its themes regularly and often, fills you with satisfaction at appropriate times, but equal measures will leave you feeling pretty frustrated because of how overwhelming it gets.
All the while, the Creature in the Well is watching. Its eyes blinking in the dark, fingers clutching onto platforms, and rage boiling over as you go deeper and deeper into its lair, uncovering more secrets from the facility.
There’s some repetition in the level design, and the difficulty can be really brutal, but Creature in the Well is a compelling, deep, and replayable adventure, especially with the secret paths peppered throughout.
There’s a lot of great games vying for your attention right now, but Creature in the Well shouldn’t be confined to the shadows just like its namesake.
Creature in the Well is now available on PS4, Switch, Xbox One and PC
Tested on PS4
Review Code Provided By Publisher