Publisher: Flight School Studios
Platforms: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Creature in the Well is a fun, fresh and energetic take on dungeon crawlers. Taking inspiration from pinball games, Flight School Studios have taken the puzzles that haunt dungeons crawlers and turned them into something truly unique. You’ll never have a play a game like this.
A Unique World
In the Creature in the Well you are the last remaining “BOT-C”, an engineer. The “BOT-C” is truly the perfect personification of the world you explore, a lost relic of a time that has been engulfed by the never ending sandstorm. The city of Mirage is in disrepair since the ancient machinery hidden in the depths of the mountains have stopped working – it is your task to get them going again.
The story isn’t instantly clear, instead you are left with an experience that is quite hard to pin point a clear genre for. Some have described it as a dungeon crawler, puzzle-action game and “pinball with swords”. Like I said you’re not going to play many games like this.
The world has a perfectly selected colour palette that complements the disrepair of this desert bound city, which is shown through its isometric art style. Whilst the dungeons show off the ancient technology of an ancient civilisation, that as you play, you learn more about.
Creature in the Well gives the player control of your “BOT-C” immediately with little suggestion that you are in control. As you eventually are prompted to start a new game, you wait patiently for the loading screen to appear or repeatedly tap A (or X) as if that has ever done anything, with the game’s logo hovering above the desert. You then realise you have control and you move forth into the desert. The minimalist story telling and lack of direction from those first moments show that the game isn’t going to hold your hand and it is up to you to figure out the best way to proceed.
It’s Okay To Fail
With the pinball mechanic, you are faced with a number of different machines that make up the puzzle, using your skills of geometry you must hit the machinery in order to gain power, which gives you access to the next chamber or special chambers. If you’re willing to explore. The pinball mechanism is pretty easy to grasp with only three controls; Y, to strike, X to charge and A to dodge. The simple control system really puts the emphasis on you and your skills if you fail.
However, the game doesn’t belittle you for failing, lacking a flashy screen reminding you of your failure, instead you are carefully picked up by the titular creature and placed outside in Mirage, giving you a chance to heal in the pool and try again. Trial and error is key to the game, as there a number of different machines that work differently and offer a number of threats, which can become overwhelming. The game forces you to learn every one of these and how to best use them to your advantage or avoid their attacks. The smallest of adjustments to your gameplay could mean the world of difference.
When you do complete the challenge you are relieved and met with a large number of power points allowing you to freely roam the temple. Through exploration you can gain a number of different collectables; capes, strike tools and charge tools. Despite most of these being for purely aesthetic reasons, it’s a completionist’s dream as the puzzle to unlock some of the items are quite a daunting prospect.
The Creature in the Well
The titular creature is the narrator for the game, giving threatening and creepy monologue in each encounter. You’ll never forget the first time you see those eyes appear out of the darkness. Those boney hands reach out as you pass over grated walkways. Near the end of each level, it will drag you down into the depths and you have to face a puzzle in order to return to continue. There are few NPCs who also help drive the story but these are few and far between. Each taking the shape of some sort of animal, I had the feeling they just didn’t belong the game, for some unknown reason.
The game isn’t without issues, the early puzzles are very repetitive with few designs between them and limits the amount of different machinery in their designs. With the first level taking around an hour, those who are testing the game may not get the full experience of Creautre in the Well.
A glaring issue is the button scheme, especially those who enjoy the narrative of a game. As the narrative is told through conversations, many of which are not re-accessible unless you restart the game. I think the right bumper was the wrong choice. This is a button that at times has to be pushed rapidly in other games and I’m notorious for pushing those back buttons one too many times and did take some getting used too.
The dodge also is very reactive, which can be a life saver but also a disaster waiting to happen. An unfortunate twitch of a finger can spell your end and lead to many hours of frustration, especially in a game that sometimes you just need that little sprinkle of luck to win.
These are minor issues, however and Creature in the Well is a thoroughly enjoyable game. What seems like is going to be a very short game, but highly enjoyable. For those on Xbox Game Pass you have a bargain but those willing to spend their £15 you have a bargain. Creature in the Well is the perfect example of something of why Microsoft is doing so well with their Game Pass. A game you might have passed on for £15, but at £8 a month you can’t go wrong, Creature in the Well now has the platform to be able to compete with titans like Gear of War, Halo and such. Not to say that the £15 price tag isn’t worth it, it bloody well is and I’m thinking of adding it to my Switch library as this is something I’d like to play again in the near future.