Downwell is an arcadey platformer/shooter that challenges players to descend as far as the can amidst swarms of enemies. A creature’s colouration determines how they must be attacked, with some dealing damage if jumped upon while others can only be dispatched this way. In moments of speedy free-fall, quickly reacting to what is appearing at the bottom of the screen is reminiscent of a rhythm game.
The game is a bit abrasive to start due to the high difficulty and unwelcoming black, red and white colour scheme but it is a moreish experience and makes for a perfect break-time game. Downwell is a rogue-like and one that is most matched to on-the-go gaming. The cranked-up difficulty means that most players won’t be needing to spend long with a single run before they meet their doom. Each stage does bring new elements but players who aren’t very good (probably most) will largely stuck with the early ones. The challenge and glimpses of what the next stage has in store can kick-start an urge to conquer the game.
Collecting gems unlocks features, introducing different gameplay style and varied colour palettes that can brighten up, or at least diversify, the look of the game. This means there are no wasted playthroughs. The palettes can be very cool, changing the entire atmosphere or providing cool references. The sheer amount of options will be enjoyable for any players who get a kick out of cosmetic bonuses. At first every run will unlock something, which encourages more attempts even if the gameplay hasn’t sold itself yet.
A more PC or console focused version might have been less segmented, with new elements slowly entering organically into a seamless plummet. As Downwell stands, it is perfectly crafted for mobile-gaming, interested in sustaining attention without using that attention to pump micro-transactions at players. Downwell isn’t huge and if it had a higher price it might be considered a lesser game but, for £1.99 on Steam, it deserves a purchase.