“Creature in the Well” is a strange beast. The decision to do away with traditional combat in favor of a pinball-inspired gameplay is unique, but this odd gameplay style, while occasionally thrilling, takes too long to unfold in its complexity. Just when things start to get interesting the credits roll.
The gameplay, which features no enemies or violence in a traditional sense, instead, features players flinging energy orbs at pinball-style bumpers and paddles fighting the time limit and their own flung energy orbs instead of traditional enemies.
Players take on the role of a recently awakened robot. The player is tasked with repairing a massive machine while beset by the titular beast.
The monster is a constant presence but remains hidden in shadow, with only its skeletal arms and glowing eyes visible. The beast and the desert town outside its lair start out as fascinating parts of the world, but their initial appeal begins to wear thin.
The only place where “Creature” is unambiguously amazing is in its art style. It uses cell shading techniques on simple 3D animation to bring to life both its arid deserts and its futuristic machinery in glorious, colorful detail.
Gameplay follows an inverse curve, while it starts out simple, it eventually evolves into a frantic, challenging, complex experience that is somewhere between a bullet hell shooter and a Zelda- style adventure game.
The gameplay takes place in individual dungeons, each of which introduces a different mechanic. While many of these are interesting, it takes over half the game until anything challenging is presented.
Seemingly at random, the difficulty will lurch from anemic to overwhelming in a way that can be quite disorienting to players.
Each dungeon is accessed from the central hub. They all flow in much the same way, with players moving from room to room finding secrets and clearing obstacles before completing a gauntlet set up by the beast.
As the game forges on the dungeons feel more and more similar, none standing out visually, and all progressing in the same way.
However, when the game nears its conclusion and all the mechanics begin working in tandem, the game really finds its feet. It is difficult without being impossible, engaging with minimal frustration.
Much of “Creature in the Well” feels like a first draft. There is a brilliant idea here, but it takes too long to realize its potential. As a brave, new, experience it certainly is worth your time, but its flaws plague the player almost as doggedly as the game’s antagonist.