Title: Creature in the Well
Developer: Flight School Studio
Publisher: Flight School Studio
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 06/09/2019
Price: £13.49 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Creature in the Well is an action game with pinball inspired mechanics from developer Flight School. A striking art style and unique mechanical feel give this game quite the hook, but does it follow through? Read on for this Rapid Review to find out!
Creature in the Well casts you as a robot engineer plumbing the depths of an ageing mountain machine. Your task? Get the machine working. Hindering you are the traps and re-activated defences set by the titular Creature in the Well. Never appearing as more than a set of eyes and a creepy pair of hands, the Creature taunts you from below as you struggle through the opening hours of the game. It’s one of a few very effective narrative tools that the game uses to deliver its story. Alongside this, you’ll find text logs written by the facility’s builders that help you piece together what exactly is happening here. It’s nothing revolutionary, but the game has intriguing lore that adds to its interesting gameplay.
But what about that gameplay?
As noted above, Creature in the Well draws on inspiration from pinball tables for its mechanics, and this largely works well. You’re equipped with two “tools,” a charge tool and a strike tool. The charge tool allows you to collect orbs that spawn or are fired at you; it also charges them up, making them more powerful. You can then use your strike tool to send the orbs flying, or deflect orbs headed for you back without catching them on the charge tool. The goal is generally to hit bumpers and other elements in the room enough to fully charge them and make them disappear or activate. From there, you’ll gain the power to open doors. Fully completing some rooms opens secret passageways, unlocking new tools and cosmetics.
At first, all of this felt a little too shallow. I felt like I was mashing the charge tool button to charge up my orbs and then doing my best to aim and hitting the strike tool button. Because the aiming felt imprecise, this just came off as frustrating in the early parts of the game. However, I quickly started earning tools that made everything click. For example, I found a charge tool that would give me a precise laser-sight-like line, showing me exactly where my shots would go. Combining this with a strike tool that allowed me to slow time briefly before my swing meant I could line up exact shots.
The game is divided into floors, with each one offering a different theme. Within each floor, though, there’s enough variation that you still need to approach each room as a new puzzle. While many became trivial as I progressed, now and then I’d encounter something very challenging. The solution was usually to rethink the room and my loadout and make changes to what tools I was using so that I could overcome the gimmick. It’s satisfying and fun and was just the right difficulty for me.
Even in the early parts of the game where I struggled, the sound and visuals of the game pulled me through. This is a game with a gorgeous art style, and while its characters are very few, they are all designed wonderfully. Each new floor features a new colour palette, with some genuinely impressing beyond my expectations. The sound is great too, featuring minimalistic music that never intrudes on the more frenetic sound effects of hitting bumpers and striking orbs. It all combines with the gameplay and story to create lovely looking, sounding, and feeling adventure. It’s also the perfect length for a game like this, clocking in at just around six hours.
If I have any real issues with the game, they lay with its slow start and shallow upgrade mechanic. The beginning of the game can be overlooked, so long as you know that more options open up as you progress. That said, after about 45 minutes, I was beginning to wonder if the game had anything else up its sleeve. If you do play it, know that it’s worth every minute to work through that first hour. The upgrading you can do doesn’t impede the game, but it does feel a bit unnecessary. Each floor has a core hidden somewhere behind a secret door. These doors are opened by completing the connecting room. From there you visit the town’s mechanic (one of two NPCs populating the game’s hub), and she upgrades your core. The upgrade makes you more powerful, causing orbs you charge to do more damage. The system never hindered my enjoyment of the game, but I more and more I wonder how much value flat power increases like this have in these sorts of games beyond making numbers go up.
In the end, Creature in the Well is a delightful, brief action experience that does something I had not seen before with its mechanics. While there are a few difficulty hiccups and bland systems in the mix, overall this is an easy one to recommend for anyone looking for something unique to spend an afternoon with.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Creature in the Well from the Microsoft Store on the following link, https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/p/creature-in-the-well/9p3swzzj1m4b?activetab=pivot:overviewtab
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