Hollow Mountain

HIGH Wonderful art design.

LOW A few of the rooms can be frustrating.

WTF Why does it run out of steam so fast?

Creature in the Well is an eye-catching, clever little indie from Flight School Studio that combines dungeon crawling with pinball mechanics. It gives a strong first impression, and I was in love for the first hour. Unfortunately, that feeling didn’t last…

The story is thin, but it gets the job done. There’s a giant sandstorm ravaging CitW’s world, and there’s a dormant machine in the heart of a mountain that can solve the problem. A long-deactivated robot wakes up and goes inside to turn the device on, but he’s blocked by the titular Creature who wants the sandstorm to rage. The Creature is creepy, mostly just a pair of eyes and some bony limbs protruding from deep shadow. Seeing it peering from the dark was unnerving at first, but it soon proves to be more cantankerous than fearsome.

The mountain is divided into several zones, and each zone is made up of single-screen rooms that resemble small pinball-ish tables. There’s always at least one ball in a room, sometimes more. Players control the robot and carry two ‘weapons’ — one hits the balls away, and the other catches balls, holds them, and charges them up.  The goal is to whack the balls around to trigger targets and to collect energy used to progress to the next room.

Creature in the Well feels like pinball, but it’s also bit like the block-busting of Breakout, and also a bit like its own thing. It’s an interesting blend that promises much potential, and while it starts out slow, elements are added – things like cannons that shoot damaging balls, tight time limits, or wide laser beams that need to be avoided. There’s a good pace to the content for a while, but it was disappointing to see it run out of steam about halfway through.

All too soon I began seeing room types and objectives that were too similar to each other, and sometimes carbon copies of each other. Some hallways dead-ended with nothing to find, some rooms seemed to exist for no reason, and there weren’t nearly enough wrinkles or twists in the gameplay to support its campaign. Even just a bit more story or personality would have helped carry things, but it’s not there. After the third or fourth zone I felt like I was simply repeating myself and going through the motions.

On the plus side, Creature in the Well is quite beautiful. The strong use of blues and oranges above ground gives it an unusually tasty flavor, and the low-detail, high-contrast approach towards the models, rooms and world is striking. Aesthetically it’s on point.

I love the style and overall concept of Creature in the Well, but after its initial statement, it just didn’t have much to say. With more detail, a few more ideas and a bit more depth, it would be a must-play. Although it doesn’t get where it needs to go, it’s a great start from Flight School Studio that’s got me excited to see how they up their game next time around.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Flight School Studio. It is currently available on XBO, PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Mild Language. I honestly can’t recall the language being cautioned against here. The game is about whacking balls into bumpers and objects, and when the robot loses, he’s simply ejected to the surface instead of being killed. It’s quite safe for anyone to play.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: No problems here. Any dialogue comes via text and there are no auditory cues needed for play. I spent all three hours with the sound off and had no issues.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

Brad Gallaway
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3 years ago

Is this coming to PS4?