Creature in the Well Review
Not much has changed since Creature of the Well came onto the scene via the Switch in September 2019. It still remains something not done in the same manner. It reminds me of the time Sega went nuts and turned Sonic the Hedgehog into a pinball game nobody asked for. Well I asked for it. But I’m weird.
The good news is what’s great about Creature in the Well has made the transition to other platforms intact. For the unaware, Creature in the Well is a dungeon game composed of small rooms with locked doors that you need to progress through. Instead of killing monsters, you’re actually playing… pinball. It’s a mash up I haven’t seen yet and it somehow works.
The Eyes are Following Me
You control a robot named BOT-C, an engineer who wakes up in a desert to fix a town already lost to a storm. It’s all very esoteric and delightful. It makes no effort to really have you understand precisely what’s happening, but manages to thread the line enough between metaphor and reality to always keep you intrigued instead of confused. The Creature in the Well is a pair of arms and menacing eyes that watches you with curiosity as you venture deeper into this windmill of sorts. At first it doesn’t seem to care about you all too much. You’re a tiny robot bug in its massive lair and it feels it already won. But if you keep progressing and turning the lights on, so to speak, it will get grumpy.
The game starts you off relatively simple. You can whack orbs (essentially our pinballs) in a direction or you can gather them with your secondary weapon, charge them, then unleash a volley. These orbs crash into items for energy (aka points) you need to unlock the door ahead. You accrue energy within each room, allowing you to decide how to spend it. This can be a lifesaver if a room is just really being a PITA and you want to move forward. Feel free to skip. You can come back later if you need the points.
If you die (and I died a lot) you start at the beginning but can get back to where you left off easily enough. Progression builds with the thematic puzzle choices, culminating in a great boss fight where the Creature has had enough of your shit and pulls you down to the depths to stop you. Each boss fight is different, requiring a different mastery of the skills you’ve been practicing in order to get the hell out of there.
Rogue-lite Pinball in a Dungeon, Puzzle Brawler
All that said, while I think the pinball meets dungeon is inventive, and there are modifiers to your powers that come later, the game can feel a bit repetitive. Balls need to be hit, angles need to be judged, and once you get that flow you won’t find the gameplay changing up too much.
Your mileage will vary depending on your love for pinball and how you can manage the controls. On the Dualshock, I often found myself frustrated with the precision aim required of my right joystick. If you’ve played a twin stick shooter, then you know sometimes where you want to aim is never quite where your thumb actually goes, making it a bit of a patience game to line up shots. And Creature in the Well can demand precision at times, often leaving me to skip rooms or put it down more often than I liked.
But overall, the art style, the esoteric story setup, the charming character work and genre mashup make it a worthwhile experience to at least dip into. If you love pinball games and dungeon monster beat ‘em ups, this will be in your wheelhouse and you may find yourself losing out to just “one more run” mentality.
***PS4 review code provided by the publisher.***
- Lovely art style and visual punch
- Smart puzzles
- A mashup of genres not seen before
- Good difficulty scaling
- A little short
- Tricky precision required sometimes