Initial Game Design Thoughts: Downwell

Andrei Marks · October 29, 2015

Got it for the iPhone.


First impression: The game is awesome but I really, really, hate the positioning of the on screen controls.

Things I really like:

  • Graceful Play: After you get the hang of it, the game gives you an impressive feeling of "graceful play." Where you control the action so finely and adeptly that you can really get into flow. Usually seen when favoring head bopping, with fairly spare shooting moments. You feel like dancing death from above.
  • Passive Progress: Gems, GEMS, GEMMMMS and passive progress and getting things for it. It's a really stupid fun meter to fill and feel good about. Even the shittiest runs are getting you stuff.
  • Core Mechanic: I really like the inversion of expectation when it comes to the core mechanic...maybe inversion is not the right term. I'm referring to the super slick melding of the jump and shoot mechanics. It violates your expectations about the separation of Jump and Shoot, two normally separate core mechanics. But the way it's implemented just works and it almost feels logical. It's strangely satisfying. It tickles me.
  • Well Over the Bar: Hits the other standard core stuff, like a quick restart loop, and delicious, delicious juice.
  • Variety of Play: Great variety of play style. I have yet to figure out which guns/upgrades are my favorite. I've tended to go for the ones that fill the screen with bullets.
  • Bopping: LOVE the head bopping versus shooting play styles. The detail that you pick up gems almost immediately when bopping really makes it work.
  • Level Structure: I like the three part levels. It's predictable, doesn't feel that long, feels like variety is coming.
  • Red, White, Black: Fuck all the other palettes. Red, white, black forever.

Overall, it’s got brilliant game feel, and it’s a perfect mobile game. Too bad the controls are awkward, though. Might just be me though, I’d rather have left-right screen sides control, and then bottom shoot. If you want to do a sudden left/right movement, drag the finger pressing the shoot button up, and it continues shooting unless you lift up.

I’ve only gotten up to 2-3 on the normal style, I’ll revisit this post later.

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