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Creature in the Well is an unlikely but enjoyable hack-n-slash pinball mashup

(Image credit: Creature in the Well)

Creature In The Well describes itself as a pinball hack-n-slash which ought to get your attention right off the bat. If those two game types don't mean much to you paired together (it is, admittedly, intriguing but tough to visualize) then its third descriptor, in my estimation, oscillates between "bullet hell" and "puzzler." Oh, and throw "dungeon crawler" in the pot too.

When you break it down, Creature In The Well is a dungeon of rooms where the resource I'm battling to collect is power. Each room has pinball style bumpers of various shapes and sizes that generate power when I slap them with pinballs enough. Some simply need to be whacked, some must be hit before they disappear, others throw my balls back at me charged with an energy that will do damage to my character if it hits me.

Things begin slow, fortunately, because if I'm honest I didn't wrap my head around hack-n-slash pinball right off the jump. I'm a robot mechanic, apparently the last alive, setting out to reactivate a great machine beneath the mountain that's supposed to protect the nearby desert town from sandstorms. When I run inside, the entire operation is powered down and I'll need to generate power for it by hitting a bunch of glowing white balls around. The first few rooms are easy enough: asking me to use my broken pipe (a weapon I can later replace) to hit a white ball teed up in the center of the room into several bumpers. I'm awarded power and am able to unlock the next door with it. 

Eventually the puzzles begin in earnest. In one room I need to make several trick shots between tight spaces to activate bumpers behind walls. Many bumpers need to be hit several times before they drop into the ground, successfully used up. In another room I need to activate a central rectangular bumper which, when completed, summons three more that each have a countdown clock of several seconds before they disappear and the central bumper returns. In another room, I need to get the entire space flying full of glowing white pinballs to take out several bumpers that pup up to deal area of effect damage before vanishing again. 

Many rooms have a few possible exits. Some doors require more power to open than others so I keep an eye on the amount I've collected in the top left of my screen. Some rooms I'm able to skip entirely if I'm unable or unwilling to solve the puzzle. So long as I have enough power saved up to open up a way forward, I can come back to try again later. It's a philosophy I appreciate, as it turns out timed puzzles that require hits in quick succession are not my forte. 

Each room I enter requires that I take quick stock of the situation. Will this room be a puzzle to solve requiring precisely timed hits or trick shots? Or will it be a bullet hell room full of flying pinballs turned rogue and bumpers all dealing area of effect damage? No matter the type of challenge, the room always seems to fill up with more pinballs than my eyes can track, making even the less-frantic puzzles still feel harrowing.

(Image credit: Creature in the Well)

Eventually, I meet up with the creature itself, a pair of glowing eyes and giant boney hands that function as the boss at the end of each area. The hands throw dangerous red sparks at me that steal my health while the room full of bumpers does its best to kill me with area of effect attacks and turrets. After defeating multiple floors of tests from the creature, I power up one of the facility's main systems and then carry on to the next branch of the dungeon-like mountain. 

Creature In The Well doesn't dilute itself with secondary systems. I am here to swing a blunt object of my choice at pinballs and the few pieces of gear I can customize are centered around helping me do it. I carry two weapons simultaneously: one that when I press and hold lets me pull nearby pinballs to myself and charge them before releasing, and the other that does the actual whacking. I don't need to swap between the two, fortunately, it's just a matter of one button vs the other. 

Along the way, I find and collect several choices with their own strengths and abilities. So far, I prefer using the quick-hitting baseball bat I found as my primary whacking implement and for my charging implement I've found a pair of dual swords that while I'm charging a hit, shows a line with the trajectory of the strike I'm about to release. Given my struggle with nailing trick shots between faraway obstacles, the dual swords have been my favorite option. I've also got capes to wear, though so far as I can tell they're purely cosmetic, and my BOT-Core to upgrade which appears to be my health.

(Image credit: Creature in the Well)

Creature In The Well does an admirable job mixing up types of challenges so that I'm able to squirrel away power and use it to bypass rooms that I can't solve. So far, I've only come across a few that put me in the frustrating position of understanding the solution and being unable to properly pull it off. 

Creature in the Well gives all of its inspirations: dungeon crawling, pinball, hack-n-slash bullet hells, and puzzlers, a fair nod. Even if it may not invent a new highly-specific genre, it's been an experiment worth playing through so far. 

Lauren loves long books and even longer RPGs. She got a game design degree and then, stupidly, refused to move to California. She plays indie games you haven't heard of and will never pass on a story about players breaking games or playing them wrong.