I don’t write about many Android games.  In fact, I’ve only ever written about two.  I also don’t play very many, but I caught wind of the recent port of Downwell to Android and gave it a shot.  $3 is well worth the price for some excellent and chaotic scrolling shooter action.

Vertical scrolling shooters are cool. Gunboots are coolers.
Vertical scrolling shooters are cool.  Gunboots are cooler.

  • TL;DR: Vertically-scrolling shooter with randomly generated levels and super retro graphics
  • Platform: Android (reviewed), iOS, PC, PS4, Vita
  • Hours Played: 2
  • What I Played: Run after run after run, only reached as far as 2-3 once.

My TL:DR basically said it all — Downwell is a shooter that scrolls downward (down a well, get it?).  Your character can shoot from the gunboots, yes the gunboots, on his feet to kill the enemies below him.  Survive for as long as you can, respawn, and try again.  That’s Downwell in a nutshell.

Shooting and surviving are the names of the game here.  Each run starts you off with eight shots and four health.  All enemies do one damage, so four hits and you’re done.  You reload by landing on something, either the ground or an enemy.  Bopping enemies on the head is almost always an instant kill, so you should do this whenever possible.

As you play, you’ll find different gun powerups in capsules with a single letter on them, calling back to the days of Contra.  T for triple shot, L for laser, P for punching a fist-shaped blast, etc.  You can only have one of these gun powers active at a time, so you’ll have to match them up to the current playstyle you’re going for.  Each completed level also nets you a passive ability, like exploding environmental blocks or shell casings that do damage.  My favorite combo is shell casings that do damage coupled with enemy corpses that explode when shot.  It’s like a fireworks show.

Downwell Guy can be seen blasting enemies with the laser here.
Downwell Guy can be seen blasting enemies with the focused rage of the laser here.

See that little half circle on the right at the start of the GIF?  That’s where you’ll find gun powerups and stashes of gems.  Stepping in one also stops time, so you can use that to regain control of a particularly hectic situation.  Gems are used in game at shops to heal or add to your max ammo.  Collecting 100 in a short time activates Gem High mode which allows you to do more damage and can be recharged by gathering more gems, promoting fast-paced play.  Gems are also added to a running total to unlock different styles and palette swaps.

Styles modify the game, like the boulder style which adds two health but limits your post-level upgrade options or the levitate style which makes your jump a bit more floaty.  Palette swaps are just that and while there are about a dozen of them, I stick with the white/black/red original palette.  I think it works very nicely.  Honestly, the whole visual setup of Downwell is pretty great.  It skips any attempt at realism to both remind you of the side-scrolling shooters of old while looking flat out cool on it’s own.  Anywhere that an enemy is red (in the base palette) is where they can hurt you, so that’s where you’ll need to avoid.

The controls in Downwell are three buttons to move left, move right, and jump/shoot.  Downwell Guy does fall pretty quickly, so you’ll need to feather your aerial movements lightly.  The game is infinitely replayable with it’s randomly generated levels and randomly distributed powerups, making each run unique from the last.  After dying, you’ll be able to see how many gems you picked up, your time, number of kills, and highest combo.

Now THIS is more like it.
Now THIS is more like it.

That’s about all there is to say about Downwell.  It’s a retro-themed scrolling shooter with dynamically generated levels.  I have a pretty tall phone in my LG G3, so the vertical scrolling was paced very well.  For $3, you can do a hell of a lot worse than Downwell.

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