Creature in the Well adds pinball elements to a top-down hack and slash dungeon crawler about a robot simply trying to serve his purpose in a post-apocalyptic world.
In Creature in the Well, the desert and its collective sand are all that is visible for miles save for the humble city of Mirage. Sandstorms ravage this land, dangerous to people and robots alike. As the last surviving BOT-C unit, you are tasked with entering an ancient facility built into the side of a massive mountain and restoring the power to the weather machine that lays dormant within. You’ll find malicious machinations programmed to serve a colossal creature and keep you from powering the machine that may just save the city and its inhabitants.
Entering the mouth of the cave leads to a control room. You’ll find an anthropomorphic frog named Roger there cleaning the floors — he tells you he aspires to be a scientist one day, amongst other things. Roger continues to tell you a bit about the history of the facility and of his great grandfather who built the weather machine, but otherwise does nothing to stop you from approaching its gigantic door. With a swing of your weapon, you fire an energy orb off into a node that powers the door and finally continue inside — into the maw of the underground lair where the creature rules.
Gameplay within the dungeons are fairly simple: you move through a myriad of hand-crafted rooms, each with their own pinball-inspired devices. Most rooms contain energy orbs that sit firmly upon raised embedded platforms, awaiting a swing from your primary weapon to dislodge it and send it flying. Once an orb is dislodged, your secondary weapon serves as an efficient tool to charge the orbs or ‘balls’, which gives them more energy and a chance to redirect your shot — indicator arrow and all.
Each opportunity to hit the ball is a challenge; manipulating the angle of trajectory is a learned tool, not a taught one. This makes for tense moments where cannons are firing red bolts of damaging energy at you and, in order for you to quell their tormentous onslaught, you have to direct their orb back at them, converting them to your cause. Other obstacles consist of mostly traps, such as lasers that fire broad beams of scorching fire and area blasts that affect a circular area with blazing heat. It’s not so much that they activate themselves, but you need to be wary to not accidentally activate them, as they seem to be placed intentionally in the most inopportune places. Defining your redirection is just as dangerous as any actual enemy would be — if there were any in this game other than the creature — and in turn makes you your own worst enemy at times.
Who exactly is the creature in the well? A huge, skulking shadowy beast that is both friend and foe. It taunts you before each boss fight, revealing information about both of your pasts. The creature also rescues you from its dungeons upon your untimely demise and throws you out of its well, back on to the sandy ground towards the edge of the city Mirage. This duality speaks volumes to the true purpose of the creature’s existence and makes you question its motivation. There will always be extreme feats at the end of each level when the creature pulls you down to its depths and unveils prepared challenges to test your might and wits, but even then — the creature will rescue you if you fall. This shroud of mystery does a great job at keeping the story simple but intriguing throughout until the very end.
Creature in the Well is a clever pinball-inspired adventure, with smart, challenging gameplay that offers inspired level design and difficult boss fights. It excels tremendously in keeping things lively and interesting, as there’s never a moment where you aren’t in the midst of the action, redirecting energy orbs like a conductor of a magnificent orchestra of light and destruction. Weapon upgrades can be beneficial to our robotic hero, but mostly lie dormant, hidden behind secret walls — a task well suited both for a completionist or simply someone looking to don themselves with the best gear. The dungeons where the creature reigns may be treacherous, but with gameplay this rich and full of fun visual theatrics, it’s worth the plunge into the black to restore the machine and set things right.