I always do my best to ensure my game of the week is typically an Android and iOS title, but it’s impossible to ignore Ojiro Fumoto and Devolver Digital’s Downwell, a recently released retro throwback for iOS and PC (via Steam).
Downwell looks and plays like it was released during a simpler period in gaming history, when titles were often about accomplishing just one specific goal. The same can even be said about the game’s visuals; they feel like they’re pulled right out of the monochrome Game Boy era, especially when it comes to colour palette.
The overarching idea of this roguelike – a word used to describe a game featuring randomly generated levels – is relatively simple. Players navigate their way down a well, avoiding foes and traps, while grabbing much-needed health whenever possible. In Downwell, you’re also able to jump, and while airborne, can fire downwards, which takes out enemies and also blasts through destructible walls.
I quickly realized after playing Downwell for a few minutes that shooting helps maneuver your character more quickly and precisely in the air. Since Downwell’s pace is so frantic, accuracy is integral to success.
The key to racking up a high score in Downwell is through the game’s jump-kill combo system. If you kill an enemy while in the air, you’ll start a combo; take down five enemies in a row and a small tally will begin displaying over your character’s head. This system is the only way to achieve a high score in Downwell and, like all good mobile games, might seem simple at first, but is actually difficult to master. Netting a significant combo also gives the player additional health, as well as charge power-ups (like a drone that follows you around).
Similar to most roguelikes, learning how to play Downwell is accomplished through trial and error, which could frustrate some players. It’s also strange the game’s menu can’t be navigated by pressing the touchscreen, and instead needs to be accomplished through onscreen virtual gamepad controls.