From the moment I saw Creature in the Well at the Nintendo Nindies Show in March of this year, in the spring of 2019, I knew I had to see it. The unique mix of top-down adventure action and pinball elements is something I’ve never seen before. After spending more than five hours in the world, I am happy to say that this justifies the excitement. However, this game is certainly not for everyone.
The moments when Creature in the Well was launched are very revealing for the kind of game he is – a game that is deeply rooted in his creativity but has little control over what to do and where to go. It is an experience that does not hold hands at the beginning, the middle or the end. This originated at a time when the games were brutally difficult because they had to be. Whether it’s loading coins into the slot machine to continue the game after a setback, or punishing your imperfect battle by sending you back to the beginning of the level, Creature in the Well looks like a game from the past. Some of them show off their design solutions, while another aspect feels that it lacks some of the quality features we’re accustomed to in modern games.
You play for the last remaining BOT-C, a robot whose mission is to restore energy to an old place and purify the city of Mirage from an ongoing dust storm. As you enter the item, you’ll pass through eight craft dungeons, each of which brings new challenges you’ll have to overcome before you can tackle the creation of the title – a mysterious monster that hides in the shadows after each of your steps as you move through each labyrinth.
Creature in the Well is based on a unique pinball game. Most of the rooms you enter offer a small puzzle game in the form of a bumper that you have to hit on a charged energy track to turn on the power. As we move on, there are enemies in certain rooms who turn against us and can be rejected. The energy generated by turning on the bumpers can be used to open the doors of each dungeon and is the main currency of the game. Because the coins are replicable and the energy can essentially grow, once you’re stuck in a certain room, you can always play in the rooms until you have the energy to continue. But use it sparingly, because the different parts are starting to overlap with new techniques you need to understand, such as shifting bumpers, timed bumpers, etc., which makes the next steps extremely difficult if you don’t train.
If you do too much damage and your health bar is ruined, you’ll end up in front of the barren and relatively lifeless city of Mirage – apart from a few NPC characters. Here you can update your BOT core with sufficient strength and old composite cores, although there is no indication that this is really the case, as it does not seem to have had a significant effect on the general skills of my character. You also have to recover after your death, because you don’t automatically start with a full health bar. In the first part of the game, I thought you had to run into the dungeon and perfectly avoid the enemy fire before returning to the extremely tight energy pools. Later I realized that there was a reserve of energy in the main node area that would save me a lot of time reading the same steps and prevent early disappointment. Again, the game doesn’t give you any indication of what you should do, and a lot of these things you should figure out for yourself. Sometimes it reminded me of a game like Dark Souls, where you keep coming back to the same boss – or in this case the puzzle – until you’re lucky or you realise there’s a new technique that you didn’t know existed.
Throughout the game you are equipped with two different weapons: percussion instruments and attack tools. The percussion, often called a sword or a kind of stick, is the main weapon used to divert balloons to bumpers or enemies. It actually works like a bumper on a pinball machine, except you don’t normally stand still. However, your charger is the one you will use most often. This way you can collect a lot of balloons as they approach you and load them, as the name of the weapon suggests, until they open fire with an increased reaction force. They also have the ability to quickly dodge incoming missiles at the touch of a button, a tool that will prove invaluable in later stages of the game. In the course of a journey, different types of weapons can be found and equipped, some of which can be aimed more accurately, have a delay effect, double blades for a higher speed, a lightning rod that absorbs damage to nearby objects, and much more. For those who want to collect all the weapons, the gameplay can vary considerably from dungeon to dungeon.
One of the characteristics of the game is the artistic style. He uses a flat artistic style, with a minimal colour palette on a continuous black background. The game has almost no shadows, which gives it a very special look. The colours chosen for each dungeon are bright and almost stand out from the screen because they contrast with the dark background. There is very little detail in the area, except a few pipes and stones scattered everywhere, which gives a heavy feeling of isolation during a study.
The music is just as simple, with a quiet piece of music to accompany you for most of your journey. The music only changes when you are in the desert or when you enter the scene of the boss against the maker at the end of each dungeon. The game has a pleasant sound when energy balls hit every bumper, underlining its pinball character. In most cases, however, it is a relatively minimal sound design that perfectly matches its impeccable aesthetics.
During my game, I’ve really encountered a number of problems, some of which should be solved, others probably won’t be changed. First of all, the game touched me quite a bit during the game, which has to do with the way the game was built up before its release. I don’t expect most players to experience this mistake, but it’s a remarkable one. I also ended up in many places, including walls, floor decorations and general textures. In some cases I lost my character on the screen, which was a bit uncomfortable to navigate. There are also very clear changes in the camera angle that you encounter when the game goes from room to room. It would be nice to have a little more control over the camera, but I understand that this can cause problems when presenting certain puzzles. Sometimes he gets a little excited, especially if you go through the different sections quickly.
My biggest criticism is the repetitive character of the game. First of all, you’re in the honeymoon phase, where everything is new and exciting. But as the game got more complicated, I started to notice the flaws. Some pieces were ultimately damn impossible and required nothing but luck, such as energy or bouncing balls. In newer dungeons, there are small, red-orange, hedgehog-like enemies that you may encounter on your character and that are often unavoidable in some scenarios. Despite the fact that some dungeons add new elements, most of the game seems to have been redesigned. From the layout of some puzzles to the overall appearance, many sections almost looked like a palette replacement in another area and seemed uninspired. It was like a design lottery, just enough to look different, but basically the same. Even when playing pinball, she felt like she’d never found her identity. He was too slow to pinball, but there weren’t enough fights to expect from a dungeon caterpillar. He crashed somewhere in the middle, which is a bit daunting because I think the team at the driving school is clearly very talented and has developed a brilliant combination of two unrelated genres.
Despite their flaws, I really enjoyed the time I spent with the Creator in the pit. The last dungeons of the game will test your patience, because you will have to make many, many breakthroughs before you can succeed. I encourage you to try other weapons, because some seem to eat better than others. In this case, the simplified artistic style of the game is fantastic, the sound design is excellent and the overall gameplay is fascinating. There are various weapons to collect, secret rooms to equip, cosmetic capes to wear and even some legends to discover. This new kind of pinbrowlers is very promising and I would like the flying school to focus more on them in the future, provided they are willing to take bigger risks when they play.
Well Creation is now available on Nintendo Switch, PC and Xbox One. A copy of the game evaluation was provided by the developers and did not affect the evaluation.
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