The creature has laid out several traps, all of which can only be knocked out by the glowing ball perfectly balanced on the tip of a sword. At a glance, I can see that it takes an impressive representation of geometry to bounce the ball against any target before a laser cuts me in half. The Creature threatens that a piece of trash like me has no place in his mountain before disappearing back into the shadows with a haughty growl, convinced at least one of his pinball machines would stop me. This is our Creature In The Well Review.
Creature In The Well Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows
- Developer: Flight School Studio, MWM Interactive
- Publisher: Flight School Studio, MWM
- Genres: Action, Adventure
- Release Date: September 6, 2019
Creature In The Well Review: Official Trailer Video
Creature In The Well Review: Gameplay
In Creature in the Well, you are a BOT-C, a robot engineer tasked with maintaining a weather machine built into a mountain designed to dissipate the constant sandstorms that cover the city of Mirage. Angry with the villagers for entering his home and “worshiping” a machine to protect them from the storms, the creature living in the city breaks the device well. You wanted to undo the damage to find out that the creature has filled the hollows of his house with deadly traps to stop you going further.
Developer Flight School Studio denotes Creature in the Well as a “ pin crawler, ” a term coined by the studio to describe a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler that uses pinball-inspired mechanics. It just happens that the creature’s traps transform every room in the mountain into the giant pinball machine, so you can transfer energy from the bumper-like nodes that power the creature’s inventions by throwing balls into them. The power you absorb can be used to open doors that lead further into the mountain.
This relatively simple concept of hitting balls into bumpers evolves into more challenging puzzles as you delve into the areas behind the first dungeon. Additional thoughts are being introduced at a steady pace, creating new kinds of fun challenges based on what the game has already accomplished, so you don’t get blinded by what you’ll encounter next. At first, the game only really instructs you to learn how to bank your shot, presenting puzzles where you have to tilt the ball off walls to hit nodes in a specific order. However, then Creature in the Well starts adding cannons that fire at you, lasers that disintegrate you, and other types of threats to be deactivated or dodged, while also trying to position for your next shot.
Some of the challenges in Creature in the Well are an equal combination of pinball and hack-and-slash. Instead, they fluctuate between the two to create a welcome change from the dungeon crawler gameplay. One room may not have a ball that you can use, so you need to time your attack and use a shot from an enemy cannon as your ball, for example, while another can figure out how to hit each node is a room inside a specific time limit.
The Creature in the Well doesn’t have a lot of tutorials, but the game is reasonably well structured and teaches you most of what you need to know without an exhibit. For example, the game never informs you that every room is optional. Still, it offers enough opportunities at the beginning of the first dungeon to earn a surplus of energy so you can try to open a few doors in the new areas without any puzzle to complete.
Likewise, almost as if it assumes most players are trying to complete each room at the beginning of the game anyway, Creature in the Well hides its first secret area relatively early in its campaign, so you learn that hidden doors are only revealed by thoroughly completing puzzles in individual rooms. This way, you take in enough of the basics to beat the campaign, but some of the aspects of the game that help alleviate some of the more difficult challenges could have used additional explanation.
For example, the game doesn’t tell you how to heal in the hub area after dying, nor does it explicitly show what the core upgrades of BOT-C do. Without this knowledge, moments from Creature in the Well can sometimes feel frustrating to you, although thankfully, it never comes to the point where the downside feels impossibly unfair. And, likely, you’ll eventually come across these mechanics and features before Creature in the Well’s story is over.
These things – that there’s a pool of water in the hub that you can bathe in to recover your health and that core upgrades allow you to run more powerful strikes that drain extra node energy – feel like crucial information. Notably, knowing the purpose of the core upgrades helped ease most of the struggle I had with the late-game dungeons. Each tool is divided into one of two categories, charge and strike, and you can equip one of each to combine their unique effects and build different gear for BOT-C.
I enjoyed combining the aforementioned Dual Blades with the Focus Hammer, a striking tool that slows downtime, to transform BOT-C into a sniper-like fighter. Each tool’s effect has excellent diversity – most of which are inspired by traditional dungeon crawler powers and weapons – allowing for a variety of play styles. The rendering of its antagonist also enhances the Creature in the Well’s dungeons, as well as boss battles. The creature is terrifying, primarily because you never really see it at all or learn its motivations.
From start to end, the creature is a pair of glowing eyes and skeletal hands, most of its body covered in shadow. It growls, mocks, and even threatens you, but it never reveals what it is, and remains a demonic riddle that refuses to be understood or stopped. The creature appears at random points in any dungeon, looking at you from just beyond your reach, and cultivating this paranoia that it doesn’t have a physical form to fight against. So if you win and manage to push the creature a little further up the mountain, the battle feels hard-won, a boss fight on par with a battle in a traditional dungeon crawler.
The Creature in the Well review manages to inject the geometry-focused experience of pinball into the insane gameplay loop of a dungeon crawler to create a unique puzzle action game. Sometimes the game’s hands-off approach to conveying information is a hindrance. Still, the well-structured dungeons and monstrous antagonists more than makeup for it, producing an engaging hack-and-slash experience that allows for a satisfying experiment.
The Creature in the Well manages to inject the geometry-focused experience of pinball into the insane gameplay loop of a dungeon crawler to create a unique puzzle action game.