A few days before our baby was born, I wanted something short and sweet to load up on my Switch, assuming I ever found time again to play it – Creature in the Well was the result. I did almost no research on it beforehand, and the only real information I picked up was that it was “pinball-inspired hack-and-slash.” “Well damn, that sounds awesome” – and I parted with some cash.
I just wrapped up 100% completion and it was one of my favorite experiences of the year, no doubt. A few years ago I played Yoku’s Island Express, another “pinball-inspired” title (although in a far more literal sense), and it was one of my favorites of that year. What is it about pinball-inspired games that make them resonate so much with me? Perhaps it’s how unique the end product comes out? I’d never played a single game like either of the two aforementioned titles, and for that I can only recommend you check them out too!
Creature in the Well takes place in an ancient dungeon that’s inhabited by a creepy large creature who lives deep within a nearby well. You play as Bot-C, a robot tasked with preventing a sandstorm (the kind where sand blows everywhere, not the club hit from 1999) from destroying it. In order to prevent this from happening, you journey through a series of rooms in the weather machine, separated into different levels, each of which consisting of rooms and puzzles that range from simple and fun to downright tricky and challenging.
The core gameplay consists of using your two weapons, which are your Strike Tool and your Charge Tool, to gather and whack around little orbs of energy to solve pinball-like puzzles. Each piece of the puzzle has a little glowing spot in the center which must be maxed out by hitting it enough times and with enough energy. The most satisfying part comes from after you give the ball a good whack, as you watch it bounce around and have all sorts of affects – some positive, like closing out more parts of the puzzle, and some, well, deadly, like triggering massive explosions that will kill you. There are tons of objects in each room, bumpers and otherwise, and with each hit you will generate energy that’s used to open doors and progress further into the dungeon, unlock the teleporter (so you can quickly jump back to the end of the level if you get killed), and buy upgrades.
Each room is set up like a miniature pinball machine. There are some rooms that cannot be “completed,” merely existing for you to generate electricity. Then there are the rooms that are mandatory in order to unlock secrets, which will be marked on your map as such – a very appreciated feature if you choose to go back and clear them later, so you can easily find them again. The mandatory rooms consist of all sorts of machines and bumpers that will try to kill you – while clearing these machines (by knocking down all the bumpers with energy balls) is the path to clear each room, if you hit the wrong machines, you’re in for a world of trouble.
There are little red spinning things that will spawn and injure you on contact. There are bumpers that emit deadly radiation fields that will drain your healthy very quickly. There are turrets that cannot be defeated that will straight up fire deadly balls of energy at you, that you can suck up with your charge tool, but failing to do this will ding your health.
The scariest bumper is the one that, upon being hit with a ball, emits a massive explosion field, and you have a fraction of a second to react accordingly and move yourself out of the splash zone. Keep in mind, it’s a pinball game – and there are energy balls freaken flying around everywhere – hitting the wrong thing is going to happen time and time again and you constantly need to be cautious of everything going on. This is not easy, as you quickly learn! Not to mention, while all of this is going on, you need to be focusing on sucking up more energy balls and launching them at the correct bumpers, desperately trying to progress as much as you’re just trying not to die. It gets intense.
Each of the 8 levels ends in a boss fight where you face off against, you guess it, the creature. The creature drags you down to the bottom and you must fight back up on a series of challenging pinball boards, all the while being taunted by the creature. Eventually, once you clear all four challenge floors, the creature will retreat, and you can power back on the part of the Weather Control System. This is by far my favorite part of Creature in the Well – the first boss fight you run into, providing you’ve taken your time and gained some degree of control mastery, will go relatively smoothly. But the farther you get into the game, the much more challenging each board will get. You’ll need unwavering focus to get through some of these levels, but when you finally succeed, the payoff is worth the tense shoulders.
There’s upgrade mechanics as well! You can update your maximum generated electrical charge by collecting hidden Cores, then paying a handsome sum along with the core to Danielle, an alligator who runs a nearby shop in town. This helps you more quickly charge your weapon and increases the damage output you can do with it. In fact, some puzzles will be damn-near impossible without some upgrades. You will also find new Strike and Charge weapons, and some provide improved perks for Bot-C, such as the ability to catch a ball without being pushed back, gaining an aim line to see where your ball will go, or entering slow-motion before striking the ball. You can change out your weapons on the fly, and I found myself jump back and fourth between weapons during some of the boss fights – a word to the wise, definitely experiment with all of the weapons you find, and learn to identify situations where each one excels.
For example, there is a charge tool you can find that will increase your magnetic field, so that you can pull in balls that are farther away. This is advantageous because you can draw in stray balls before they hit a structure that emits an explosion. Then there’s a strike tool that will emit an electrical charge every time a ball hits a bumper, essentially clearing bumpers at least twice as fast. Using these two together is very powerful and you will find yourself clearing rooms orders of magnitude faster.
Graphically speaking, I can look at this game for hours. I took so many darn screenshots, I don’t even know what to do with them all. I can only say that I want to use every one of these as color schemes here on Nostalgia Trigger. The art style itself is gritty and perfect for the environment, and is complemented beautifully by an appropriately eerie and at-times unnerving ambient soundtrack.
It took me a good 7 hours to 100% complete and collect all the items in the game, and I enjoyed every minute. I cannot recommend this game enough and I look forward to whatever developer Flight School comes out with in the future. Go check it out!
Have you played Creature in the Well? What did you think? Let’s discuss in the comments!