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Downwell (2015)

image credit: Wikipedia

image credit: Wikipedia

Downwell (2015)

Release Date:

15 October 2015


Devolver Digital


Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Android, iOS


Vertically scrolling shooter, roguelike, platformer


Is Downwell the game that puts other 8-bit arcade game to shame? My first impressions of the game were exactly that. The arcade genre is really something in the ‘Steam’ digital marketplace. A lot of arcade games come out day after day on Steam. I’m glad to have found a real hidden gem in the bunch.

Downwell is a roguelike vertically scrolling shooter platform video game designed by ‘Ojiro Fumoto’ using GameMaker: Studio. If you don’t know GameMaker: Studio is a great program that will allow you to start making games really fast. For example, ‘Hotline Miami’ was a game made with the same software. The game was developed by ‘Moppin’ and published by ‘Devolver Digital’. The game was released for iOS and Microsoft Windows in October 2015, for Android in January 2016, and for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in May 2016.


Being an arcade type game, this game doesn’t have much if anything to the story. As I did more research I found that the game does actually something for a story. According to Wikipedia, “Downwell centers around a ‘curious man’, who is at the local park one night when he decides to explore the depths of the well nearby. Knowing that monsters are waiting for him inside, he straps on his gunboots and starts his trip downwards, killing his enemies to proceed and collect treasure.”

“This is a game for people who enjoy

showing off those high scores”

After listening to this, it did make more sense in what exactly is going on in the game. If I were to take my guess at what is going on, I figured it was about a man who is trying to commit suicide and jumps down a well (I know…. my mind…’s dark).


If you’re familiar with the games ‘Spelunky’ and ‘Cave Story’ then you kind of have an idea of the gameplay. The game features three basic controls, the movement to left and right, and the ability to jump while on a solid surface. For me playing this game with a keyboard was much too complicated. The jump button is ‘Shift’, and when you press shift to fast the sticky keys option comes on and ask if you want to turn on or off sticky keys (Dam Windows 10 for keeping this option). I found this game best playable with a Xbox or Ps4 controller.

Aside from the 3 controls, when mid-air, you can press the jump button again to fire your ‘gunboots’ (That’s right, he has guns on his shoes). Downwell does a great job playing with color. The color palette only consist of three colors main colors. A black background with white outlines and red is for gems, enemies, and other important items. Using these basic colors, the fast paced action is really easy to navigate through.

The levels are randomly generated with a large number of enemies. You have to shoot them usually once or jump/fall on them (if they don’t have spikes. Just think Super Mario) to kill most of the normal enemies. The gunboots automatically reload themselves when the player hits a surface, regardless of whether or not it is solid. I should add that this also stops your combo. Your need a combo to get on a ‘gem high’, which will reward you with more gems as the combo continues. In short, try not to touch the floor.

The Levels

The levels in Downwell are built into different multiple stages. Each stage having three levels and featuring a different set of style and difficulty. The enemies transform with each level you do down. For example, the beginning stages are made up of regular normal monsters, then the later stages have crazy ghosts that chase you. The shop keeper can also be found in each stage. Everytime I see him and get into the shops, it’s like a breath of fresh air (seriously, even the music changes). I buy my items then run back outside to the carnage!

At the end of each level, the player is presented with a choice between player upgrades. These upgrades from what I could tell were random. But once you make an upgrade, it stays with you throughout the decent, or at least until you die.

Color Palette & Styles

The color palette is a cool feature about the game. You unlock different color palettes the more you play the game. I can’t remember exactly how you unlock them, but I realized the more I played, the more I unlocked. There were cool color patterns ranging from basic colors like green or blue to retro Gameboy type colors. Also, some colors did it the game more challenging for me. I remember trying to use an aqua type color palette only to realize I can barely see some of the enemies. So I think color plays a lot on the difficulty of the game.

As you complete certain objectives (or really just keep playing the game) you will unlock different movement styles. These styles will influence your character’s position, movement, and animation while on solid ground. some styles include: levitate style, Boulder style, and arm spin style. Each style has a different way of playing the game. For example, boulder style drops really fast to the ground but he starts with +2 health bars.

The Future of the Game

I’ve played this game for a while now. I think I have around 7 hours invested (I know not much), but honestly, there’s not much to this game. I understand that this is a game for people who enjoy setting high scores, I mean that’s literally what my friend and I did for a day straight. I’m more curious about the future of the game.

I know I’m not alone when I ask, is there anything new coming to Downwell in these later months and years? Possible DLC’s, new enemies, extreme levels? Maybe even a sequel? I personally would love to see more content for Downwell. Adding additional new characters to the world would be nice. I know a lot of developers add the option for players to customize their own levels and play style, this may be something to consider. Maybe Steam workshop or something similar would help keep players and the community strong.


This game has some great arcade style retro graphics. Graphics pretty much resemble a typical 8-bit game. I reminded me of playing top down “shut em’ games” on my old Super Nintendo. I loved everything about the art style. The details would have given the game a different feel. Although I wouldn’t mind seeing an HD rendered version of the game in a later time (that would be cool).

Last words

If you interested in vertically scrolling shooter, roguelike, platform type games, well then seriously check out ‘Downwell’. It won’t disappoint. This game is easily accessible via Steam or GameStop stores near you. Don’t be a pirate and steal video games for no reason. Just support and enjoy art like a dignified person.

Like or hate the review I did? Have a question, comment, or concern? Let me know in the comment below. Don’t forget to also check out other Video game reviews on The EXP Grind.

The Good

  • Lots of play styles to unlock
  • 3 main colors scheme help with fast paced action
  • Levels are difficult and fun

The Bad

  • Minimal storyline
  • No continued support
  • Multiplayer aspect would be nice

Written by: Christian Galvez

Christian is the founder of The EXP Grind. He is interested in Indie musicians, Video Games, Anime, and just about anything in Arts and Entertainment. He tries to find art with true meaning in the new and upcoming artists and hopes to reach more creative professionals.

5 Comments Added

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  1. Christian Galvez February 18, 2017 | Reply

    I really did like this game. I’m curious to what you guys think about arcade games? Are they dead now?

    • Roberto Bahena February 19, 2017 | Reply

      Nah, I don’t think arcade games are dead, granted they are not as strong as they could be. But Nostalgia sells, and there’s always one or two retro arcade style games coming out, or being re-released. Thanks to indie developers we’re seeing a lot more of these great homages to old school games with new clever game play mechanics.

      • Christian Galvez February 20, 2017 | Reply

        Yea I agree with that. I think Indie developers are going to push the boundaries for arcade games on both mobile and PC gaming. U don’t really see any arcade games on Nintendo, right?

  2. Becca February 20, 2017 | Reply

    I think multiplayer would be a good idea, He needs a sidekick. It would add more to the story.

    • Christian Galvez February 20, 2017 | Reply

      lol, yea he does need a sidekick! I think they should add some multiplayer for sure.

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