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TouchArcade Game of the Week: ‘Downwell’

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The idea behind the TouchArcade Game of the Week is that every Friday afternoon we post the one game that came out this week that we think is worth giving a special nod to. Now, before anyone goes over-thinking this, it doesn’t necessarily mean our Game of the Week pick is the highest scoring game in a review, the game with the best graphics, or really any other quantifiable “best" thing. Instead, it’s more just us picking out the single game out of the week’s releases that we think is the most noteworthy, surprising, interesting, or really any other hard to describe quality that makes it worth having if you were just going to pick up one.

These picks might be controversial, and that’s OK. If you disagree with what we’ve chosen, let’s try to use the comments of these articles to have conversations about what game is your game of the week and why.

Without further ado…

 

Downwell

Eli certainly had a lot of good things to say about Downwell ($0.99) in his review, and I’m here pretty much to echo what he said. I’ve been waiting to play Downwell since I first saw the GIFs shared of the game last year by developer Ojiro Fumoto (aka Moppin). Those led to many in the indie gaming scene championing the game, helping to test it (teasing those of us without access) and eventually winding up with a publishing deal with Devolver Digital. I missed my chance to play Downwell at GDC this year as Fumoto and Devolver packed up shop for PAX East before I could stop by the IGF booth to check it out. But I finally got to play it in Austin with the Devolver folks and at Chicago’s Bit Bash on the custom Downwell controller:

And it was glorious. Rarely does a game look so amazing and live up to expectations, even when first playing it. But what’s amazing is that Downwell manages to get better with time. It’s a game that reveals a lot of complexity in terms of how you can play it, and strategize with it. Sure, you can just use the different styles, those are obvious differences. But how you use them and fight with them becomes apparent. Levitation makes it easier to go on an enemy-bopping spree, for example. And your style influences the kind of upgrades you should choose. It’s all subtle things that you might not be able to pick out of the chaos of just watching the game, of seeing someone just go ham on some skulls, but to the knowing eye, it becomes apparent.

The game feels like it owes a debt to Spelunky in a way, but I honestly find it a lot more fun. Because the difficulty is toned down a lot from that game’s punishing challenge, while still being a real trial to advance through, you get a game that feels accessible and easy to replay. I might still die in the early caves, but I know that if I’m smart and play better, I can make it further and get better over time. It’s the kind of game where I never really feel frustrated over dying, I just want to hop back in. It’s amazing, because these kinds of roguelike-inspired games usually feel so frustrating. But with Downwell, I’ve played until my phone was 1%, when my arm was falling asleep because of how I had it positioned on my desk chair. I sat back and played the PC version for an hour, just because. I stood around waiting for a concert, playing the game and the time passed like nothing. And I feel such little frustration, just joy and satisfaction.

And this is from a developer who’s made his first retail game, a largely solo affair! He had help from Devolver along with sound and music people, but Moppin largely did this himself. He made one of the best roguelike action games yet, with such a distinct and amazing look, and it’s his first major game! It’s mind-boggling. How does a developer knock it out of the park like that on what is pretty much their first try?

Downwell is an amazing game, and I’m sure it’s going to be at or near the top of my game of the year list come December. This one’s set up a home in the dock of my iPhone, and I look forward to spending more and more time with this one. It’s a fantastic game, and even in a week full of great games, like the immense Subterfuge (Free), this is a knockout choice for our game of the week.

  • Downwell

    *iPhone 5 / iPod Touch 6 / iPad mini 2 / iPad Air or later recommended. Downwell is a curious game about a young boy ve…
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