When I decided to make Steam my primary “console” type source for games, the first games I downloaded were popular games but Steam had a great sale going on, so I got them cheap. It had the effect on me, because of how often Steam has that game you’ve been looking for for $5 or less, that I don’t really consider the quality of a game when I see the price. One of the many benefits to that mindset is finding Downwell, $3 anywhere you can get it. What turned me onto it, as I watched the video was the look of it, it took me back to Metroid and a time when there were only a few color options. The sounds are something I was turned onto, and the physics, but its the physics that keep me with it.
As I write this I’ve still yet to get to the bottom. My highest combo is in the 30’s, to give myself what cred I can. There is a jerky rhythm to it, as you descend, but the thing that really clinches that replay value is the physics. Super Mario comes to mind because its simple, Miyamoto added Mario’s weight to the game because it made him feel more natural. It also gave the game some grace; Mario’s replay value, not least of all because there was nothing else like it, was in the tight controls. You could get better at it, and you did, anyone that grew up with it can still tell you their fastest Mario time (with no warps). Speedruns are possible because the controls are right. In Downwell, the addiction is the skill you develop. It becomes something you dream about like an 80’s arcade game. It’s because of the way s/he falls in response to your controls that the spell is never broken, until you lose focus and die.
Super tight controls have become one of those things simple games have to get right. Super Meat Boy with sloppy controls doesn’t work, neither does Ori and the Blind forest, but its ok that sometimes Ezio runs straight into the wall behind the ladder you are trying to climb because you aren’t quite to the right enough when you hit it. Ubisoft gets away with that because of everything else Assassin’s Creed is. A game like Downwell has been boiled down to the bare essence, creator Ojiro Fumoto claiming what was once an upgrade, the gunboots, was just too fun to cut out, so it became what the game is about. Downwell is a game about acquiring attributes that allow you to survive a very long fall, to survive it gracefully, or quickly, or with force and devastation, depending on which upgrades you stumble onto.
I’m hooked for the time being, and I’d imagine this is a game I’ll keep with me. It fits that noisy arcade niche for me, like Galaga, I keep that on my 3ds, with me all the time.
More to come…