I'm sometimes a little apprehensive about this little indie games with big hype. It can be a bit of a dice roll. While I've certainly found some amazing games due to the indie-hype (see: Dead Cells), there have been others where I've struggled to understand the hype (see: Celeste).
I went into Downwell with that sort of apprehension. It's a $3 game. It's monochrome. It looks like countless other games to me - admittedly, I had it confused with Towerfall even. And the hype - at least in certain circles - was through the roof. Nintendo Force gave it a perfect score. I know it's a weird thing to say, but a perfect score throws up red flags for me sometimes. How can a game be THAT good, really?
After about fifteen minutes of playing Downwell, I could totally understand the hype. And after about an hour I was sending texts to friends urging them to check this game out. Yeah. It's THAT good.
Downwell is deceptively simple. Levels use procedural generation - like in Spelunky or Dead Cells. So each run is different. Cool. And like in those games, each set of levels has its own theme with different enemies and so on. The point of the game is to continue going further down the well. And the experience is pure arcade bliss.
It quickly turns into a competition with yourself. How good can you do on a single run? For the record, my best run so far is a mere eight minutes. That was a huge improvement from where I started at the beginning of that hour.
The simplicity extends the controls. You only need one button! If you're standing then it makes you jump. If you're in the air then it makes you shoot from a gun at the bottom of your feet straight down the well. So simple that you "get" the controls in mere minutes.
Then it's a matter of understanding everything else at play. Like how some enemies need to be killed by jumping on them, while others need to be shot. Or how the gem system works. Or what to prioritize buying at shops. Or which power-ups to grab between levels to benefit your own playstyle. This is a game that obviously requires a lot of experimentation and PRACTICE. What's great is that it's a game that can make you feel like you've gotten something out of it even if you only have ten minutes to play.
Oh, I also learned quickly that my preferred way to play is putting the Switch in TATE mode and using a Pro Controller. Big difference. Anyway, loving this game. So glad I grabbed it.