Falling down in video games is usually a bad thing. Spikes wait for you at the bottom of many a playfield, along with bottomless pits, pools of lava and other instadeath hazards. But, falling down is a joy in Downwell. The deeper you go, the better — and harder — it gets.
Developed by Ojiro Fumoto, this vertically-oriented roguelike invokes the visual style of old-school video games but adds a few modern twists that Like Spelunky, Galak-Z and other examples in the genre, Downwell doles out randomised new levels and a supply of power-ups every time you play. As you go through caverns, catacombs and more, different enemy types come out to make your life hell. Having the right mix of power-ups — like a drone wingman that shoots when you do or the ability to eat enemy corpses for health restoration — makes a big difference.You’ve only get four hit points so sessions with Downwell can be very quick unless you’re really careful. Watch me try my damnedest in the video below.
Downwell comes in two varieties, a Steam release and a version for iOS devices. While playing the mobile iteration on an iPhone 6, I constantly felt like my fingers were slipping off the virtual controls and that my hands were getting in the way of the screen. I wound up preferring the desktop version a lot more because it supports a gamepad. No matter which version you play, the frantic mix of twitch-centric action and split-second avoidance combine to create a compulsively seductive experience that keeps you coming back for more.