Review – Downwell (Switch)

Downwell is such a simple and minimalistic game, yet I can’t stop playing it. Originally released on PC nearly four years ago, witnessing this weird but great mixture between a roguelike, a vertical shooter, and a platformer on a console like the Switch was a matter of “when”, not “if”. This game feels right at home on Nintendo’s handheld, being yet another home run from Devolver Digital.

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The cutest half a dozen pixels in gaming.

Downwell is a procedurally generated shooter in which you need to keep going down a well, shooting and stomping on enemies along the way. The more baddies you kill, the more gems you’ll collect. The more gems you collect, the more powerups you can buy during the game, and the more visual extras you can unlock in your next run. There’s not a lot to explain here, it’s a simple as it sounds. Besides the analog stick or directional pad for movement, all of the other buttons on the Switch’s controller do the same thing; press once to jump, press again to shoot downwards. It’s so simple, it’s so responsive, it’s so good.

The more levels you complete, the more extra buffs you can collect, ranging from drones to extra health. Downwell absolutely nails the feeling of wanting to play “just one more round” given how fast-paced and simple it is. The game keeps rewarding you with more color palettes at very steady pace, motivating you even further, even though it’s far from easy, and sometimes being even far from fair. Just like a good old roguelike, there will be a point in which the game will just throw dozens of enemies at you at once, without any possibility of surviving that onslaught.

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The addition of a vertical mode is a godsend, especially if you own a Flip Grip.

Downwell looks and sounds very minimalistic. It looks and sounds like a ZX Spectrum game at best, and that can be a downer for some. While I do appreciate the charm in its minimalistic visuals, I got bored pretty quickly with the repetitive and uneventful soundtrack. The game’s aspect ratio can be a bit off-putting, especially given the fact it is a vertical shooter being played on a horizontal screen, but the developers have also added the option of flipping the screen to a vertical perspective, just like in the Switch version of Ikaruga. If you do own a Flip Grip, which is essentially an accessory that allows you to play your Switch on a vertical perspective with the joycons attached to the console, you’re going to love this option. It’s a perfect fit for this accessory, even though the characters look extremely stretched when on vertical mode.

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Peek-a-boo!

There’s not a lot else that needs to be said about the Switch version of Downwell. It’s easy to pick up and play, it’s very hard to master, and it’s very addictive. This is one of the simplest games I’ve ever played on the Switch, but also one of the most replayable games available on the system. It goes for less than three dollars on the eShop, so I can’t recommend it enough. It’s an absolute steal and a joy to play.

 

Graphics: 6.0

Downwell‘s visuals are extremely minimalistic and occasionally repetitive, although they do retain a certain charm. The framerate is also pretty high even with tons of particles flying around onscreen.

Gameplay: 10

The same button you use for jumping is also used for attacking. That’s the only input method you need to use besides the d-pad or analog stick. Downwell‘s gameplay is beyond simple, very responsive, and highly addictive.

Sound: 4.5

Simplistic, just like the game’s graphical department, though nowhere near as charming or memorable.

Fun Factor: 9.0

Downwell‘s gameplay loop is so simple that anyone can easily pick the game up and play, but its roguelike nature also means very few will ever master it. The game is fast-paced, very fun, and extremely replayable.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Downwell is available now on PS4, PS Vita, PC and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Downwell was provided by the publisher.

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