Most of us have experienced that time in our lives where we have experimented with making a new, wonderfully tasting cocktail from whatever leftover remnants of alcoholic drinks you can find. My memory of Diamond White cider, Pernod and Orange Juice still makes me shiver in disgust. Creature in the Well is the gaming equivalent of that cocktail, mixing three very different games together, with a large amount of a Dungeon crawler and a splash of Peggle and topped up with some Pinball. Whats differerent is that this mixture doesnt make you want to vomit, but it may well leave you with a bit of a hangover.
Creature in the Well sees you playing as the last remaining BOT-C unit who must venture into a desert mountain to restore power to an ancient facility that is guarded by the titular creature, in order to free the nearby city from a deadly sandstorm. There are eight dungeons in the mountain to restore power to, and each one requires you to clear the many rooms within, by completing a Peggle/Pinball challenge. Each room contains one or more energy orbs, that can be powered up and and hit to activate the machinery. Once a item has been hit a number of times it is removed from play, and the aim is to remove all of the items in the room. At times there can be multiple orbs all ricocheting around the room, and each orb can be powered up before being hit again. Each successful hit also builds up your energy reserves, and these reserves are used to unlock the doors to the next rooms. Once all the levels innthe dungeon are cleared you are pitted against the creature’s final puzzle, which when successfully completed results in the power being restored to that dungeon, and then moves BOT-C onto the next one.
BOT-C is equipped with both a strike tool and a charge tool, mapped to the X and Y buttons, and new and different tools can be found in the secret rooms within the dungeons. For example, one of these upgraded strike tools gives you an aiming assist line to make your shots more precise, and another makes time slow down. Some of the dungeon rooms are fairly straightforward, requiring you just to hit the orbs around, but as you progress some of the rooms contain enemies that will fire charged orbs back at you, which need “catching” with the charge tool before striking back out. Other rooms will require you to hit nodes in a certain order and in a certain time limit. These provide a big challenge, as they need you to calculate the exact area that you need to stand in order to successfully complete the room. There is an element of MetroidVania in this game, as some rooms will be nearly impossible to beat unless you have one of the upgraded tools, meaning some retracing of steps is needed to 100% complete each dungeon, however the end battle can still be completed without completing each room.
The overall gameplay is pretty good, challenging at times, but can get quite monotonous. I felt great when I finally completed a room that I had been struggling on for ages, finally working out how to dodge the lasers and enemies, all the time lining up the shots needed to take out the final node. But it was a bit demoralising when the game then stuck me in either an identical room or a very easy room. Creature in the Well is not a game I found I could stick on and play for long periods of time.
The boss battles against the creature were a big challenge, as you have three levels that must all be completed with one health bar. They introduce a new mechanic, namely enemies that the creature fires at you, which must be taken out with a well timed shot. Sometimes this made things too frustrating, as there was just too many things on the screen trying to kill me, all whilst I was trying to hit a number of nodes which dissappeared after a small amount of time. These did cause a few rage quit moments!
Then the aforementioned “hangover” moments. I experienced the highs of solving the puzzles, often so engrossed and intense that I forget the world around me existed. Then I completed it and then the feeling of elation is punctuated with a feeling of exhaustion as I realise I have got to do it all over again, but in a different room. And at times I just didnt want to feel that way again so soon. Creature in the Well is a game that I needed to play in short, sharp time periods. I did love the world that the game is based in, especially as the hand holding is minimal, and I was left to explore and work out the mystery myself. The titular creature is also well designed, and I loved the levels where it’s bony, skeletal hands appear on the very ledges I was walking on. I wasnt keen on the graphical look, with the retro inspired, somewhat blown-out pixels coming across as too garish for my liking.
I did hate the fact that the game booted you back to the village upon your death. Creature in the Well is definitely not a rogue-like, and really didnt need to cause this unnessessary delay in getting me back to the room that just caused my death. The health situation was really not described very well either, unless I was very stupid and completely missed the explananation, and I had to Google the fact that the white pool of liquid in the central dungeon hub was what restored my health back to full. I did encounter a couple of small save bugs, that prevented me from restoring my health after a death, but this was resolved by dying again, but these really shouldn’t have been there.
One of the biggest positives is that Creature in the Well is currently included in the Xbox Game Pass service, and is certainly worth picking up and playing. This will give the game a greater audience than it would have received, and is a game that does play a lot better than its graphics suggest. Its a good fun puzzle game, with an interesting story and new and refreshing gameplay. Just watch out for that hangover though!