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Creature in the Well Review: Adventure, Action, Puzzles... Pinball?

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Creature In The Well, published by Flight School Studio, feels like the love-child of Lethal League and Hyper Light Drifter. Gameplay is from an overhead view and is centered around ricocheting orbs of energy into targets which allows you to unlock doors and progress through the Machine-- the main setting of the game. Obstacles come in the form of automated turrets, energy towers, and homing mines; aside from the "Creature" itself, which comes in the form of a boss at the end of each stage, there are no "enemies" in the traditional sense. The majority of the targets are stationary, or run on a rail that requires the player to lead their shots; imagine a twin stick shooter that functions more like a game of pinball.

Presentation

Visually the game is fantastic. This is where I draw my comparison to Hyper Light Drifter, because the combination of science fiction with ancient ruins is complemented by strong color palettes unique to each stage. The regular change in palettes is enough eye candy that I am willing to overlook some obvious reuse of filler hallways.
Where visually the game is gorgeous, the soundtrack is less than stellar. I personally have no strong feelings for ambient music in general, and this game doesn't feel special in that regard; the soundtrack is pretty forgettable. I would've preferred a soundtrack with greater focus on melodies than ambience, but that is just personal taste.

The Good

The main hook of Creature in the Well is simple enough that it can be taught through the first few rooms of the game with no large text-boxes telling you the obvious; hit the ball into the target, swipe the ball to charge it and keep it in place for aiming, and avoid red stuff. The game rewards quick reflexes, accuracy, and completionists. Some rooms you explore are not required, or offer a greater challenge, but completing them will earn you a secret pathway that usually leads to new weapons, cosmetics, or level-up items. The game's form of currency, energy, is also used to open doorways, and is gained by hitting the targets in the rooms. You gain a net-profit of energy after each level, and it is generous enough that you'll always have enough to level up at the end of each stage, assuming you found the required item through exploration that is. Leveling up requires exploration rather than grinding for energy. 
The titular "Creature" of the game is a reoccurring presence in every level, and also serves as the boss of each stage, so that you are always reminded of the main threat that looms around you.

What Could Use Some Work

Creature in the Well tries its best to make each stage feel fresh with new mechanics and visuals, but the limited amount of interactables that are reused for every room eventually feels repetitive after long play sessions. Some NPCs could use more dialogue, as there appeared to be a steady flow of new text after each stage, but eventually it just seemed to stop, and the NPCs began repeating themselves even after you complete multiple stages. The village that is part of the game's main setting is fairly empty, the story reason for this is that the villagers are scared of you and the creature, but this leaves the area feeling shallow with not much to do. Even if there were more rooms to go into it would've felt a bit more fleshed out than just a collection of locked doors and empty streets. I would've preferred it if the villagers were scared of you at the start, but as you eventually progressed, and restored power to the village, then they could've warmed up to you and the village would slowly feel more lively, but for the most part, there isn't much to do as it is. 
As for the level up system, I am unsure of what it does. The game doesn't explicitly state what leveling up your core does-- does it increase your health? Your energy shots? Both? The weapons on the other hand, have their abilities written in yellow text to offset the lore text so that you know what it does. A bit more of an obvious reason to level up would be appreciated.

Overall

Creature in the Well is a breath of fresh air. The pinball-like ricochet mechanics as its main hook is something I've never seen in an adventure game. The visuals are great and the changes in color palettes enhances the uniqueness of each level. The Creature itself is depicted marvelously as an always threatening presence that bigger budget games just don't do with their antagonists. A little bit more depth in the village areas with some more NPC dialogue would be nice, as a change of pace from exploring the Machine, and the soundtrack isn't anything to write home about, but as it is, Creature in the Well is a fantastic adventure that I would highly recommend. Creature in the Well is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

- "Power flows to the one who knows how. Desire alone is not enough." — Megatron


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About Toothpick2600one of us since 6:07 PM on 05.31.2018

Mashing Buttons Since 1997

From Nova Scotia, Canada-- proud to represent the red, white, and leaf.

A graduate from Memorial University's class of 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature.

I firmly believe that video games are an art form that deserve to be studied as much as any film, painting, or written work.

Favorite Game: Ikaruga

Favorite Series: Castlevania

Favorite Publisher: Platinum Games

First Game Ever Played: Batman Forever (SNES) -- not a good first impression...

Preferred Genre: Fighting

Preferred Platform: Steam

Favorite Final Fantasy: IX

Favorite Ninja Turtle: Donatello

Favorite Street Fighter: Q