Levitate Style all the way
Downwell is a roguelike action game about plummeting down an impossibly long and monster-filled well with style, grace, and gunboots. As Nintendo Switch owners will soon discover, it is exceptional.
It’s one of those games whose magic can’t easily be conveyed in words. I can relay how Downwell works (your bullet-firing boots slow your manic descent to a manageable pace and they’re topped up when you land on something solid), and I can sum up why I adore the game (it’s physically and mentally rewarding on a second-by-second basis). But that’s not a proper replacement for your sense of touch.
It’s the type of experience that will linger in your mind long after you’ve called it a night. Deciding which enemies to shoot, which to trample, who to avoid altogether, what types of upgrades to go for on your current run, whether you should prioritize combo-chaining over playing safely, and if so, for how long — there’s a lot of decision making. You just have to roll with the punches Downwell throws your way.
The more you play, the more familiar you’ll become with each area’s particular threats and the best ways to circumvent them. It’s not a hand-holding walk in the park, but it isn’t unfair, either. Once you become fluent in Downwell‘s language, you can “play out” practice scenarios in your mind and bring that confidence into the actual physical game, not unlike Spelunky or other all-time-great roguelikes.
Developer Ojiro Fumoto and publisher Devolver Digital have ported Downwell over just as I had hoped, which is to say 1) it’s still phenomenal and 2) it’s particularly well-suited to this system.
With Tate mode toggled, you can flip your Switch on its side to match the game’s vertical display presentation. It’s possible to play with the Joy-Con still attached by holding the console in both hands, or you can prop up your Switch. Ideally, though, you’d use the Tate-inspired Flip Grip accessory.
Just like its releases on other platforms, Downwell only costs three bucks on Switch, so it’s well within impulse-buy territory. Some of us have this tendency to double or even triple dip on fashionably late Switch ports that offer newfound portability and not much else. Downwell, on the other hand, feels as if it was designed from the ground up for Nintendo Switch. This version is the be-all-end-all.