Downwell

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
Downwell Game Poster Image
Twitchy action game with mild violence, classic gameplay.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

It's a stretch, honestly, to say there's a message here. All you do is fall -- there's no story. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

All you know about your character is that you fall and shoot. That's all.

Ease of Play

You'll pick up the controls fast, but getting great takes hard work.

Violence & Scariness

Cartoonish shooting, bopping off enemy's heads. There's no gore, blood.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Downwell is a throwback to old-school arcade games. There's no real plot, just nonstop action with a lot of strategy and even more twitchiness. The controls are simple to learn but take time to master. Overall, it's a game where you fall at high speeds, shoot things with your feet, and try to make it to the next area. While you're shooting things or landing on enemy heads, there's no blood or gore to be seen.

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What's it about?

There actually isn't a story in DOWNFALL, and there isn't supposed to be. Essentially, the story casts the player as a young person of nondescript features that straps a pair of boots with guns in them to their feet and leaps into a large well. Seriously -- that's it. You'll defeat monsters and buy new items with the coins they leave behind, but the game is really an arcade-like exploration game to see how far you can go before you're defeated and have to start all over again.

Is it any good?

At first glance the game doesn't look like much, though simplicity is this action game's strong suit. It's clearly intended to be a throwback to older arcade games, and it succeeds wildly in that regard. It has flashing colors, fast action, and lots and lots of failing and trying again. But rather than feeling frustrated, each time you lose you feel like you've learned a little more about how you play, how the game works, and how to get a bit further next time. It's this pattern that makes the game more challenging than straight-up frustrating -- though it's doubtful you'll "beat" it without weeks and weeks of practice. 

In the game, you're constantly falling. You can only shoot your gunboots a few times before they need to be "recharged," which is done by landing on any flat surface. You can bounce off enemy heads or environmental objects such as candles and pots, but doing so won't recharge your gun, leaving you defenseless and falling. So, simple as it sounds, that is really part of the challenge. This is one of those games where "one quick game" can melt into playing for an hour, like an addictive iPhone game or, really, any well-constructed game. And since the maps are randomly generated for each area, there's never a way to get muscle memory and just steamroll your way through. The game requires constant attention, constant strategy, and constant, well, falling. It's a lot of fun and tough to put down. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of a retro game compared to more colorful or visually sophisticated products. Why make that design choice as the creator? Why would a customer prefer something like that? 

  • Have you ever felt "stuck" doing the same thing over and over again? Why do you sometimes fall into a sort of "zone" where time seems to zip by and you barely notice it, and other times it creeps to a crawl? 

Game details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love action

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