Creature in the Well Presents Fun Pinball Combat Possibilities
Flight School Studio's newest title Creature in the Well was at PAX East, with the demo giving a taste of the pinball-like mechanics.
Building up energy is the key to the Nindies-featured Creature in the Well, a new dungeon crawler hack-and-slash game from Flight School Studio. With pinball-like combat mechanics, Creature in the Well adds a unique spin to the genre, though the PAX East demo that I played left me questioning how much further the final game will go with its toolset.
As a robot, the last “BOT-C” unit, the player ventures into the heart of an ancient facility in a desert mountain on a quest to restore power and save the city of Mirage. Armed with a sword, the player charges up and hits pinball-like orbs, hitting what straight-up appears to be giant pinball bumpers to build up energy, allowing the player to progress through the dungeon. Looming around the dungeon is a giant and mysterious creature, which made brief appearances throughout the demo.
This demo began with the BOT-C unit finding a pipe, which it uses to bounce these energy orbs around. These orbs dissipate after bouncing a certain number of times, but upon finding your sword, these orbs can be charged up even more. Once you find an area with a number of bumpers in close proximity, be prepared for the satisfaction of quick fast-bouncing balls and large numbers, indicating the energy you gain from these bounces, flying out with each hit.
The energy gathered from gameplay acts as a sort of currency, with doors requiring a certain number of energy units before allowing the player to pass. The bumpers retract upon having its energy expended, leaving the player with just enough energy to progress. With that, I’m wondering what sort of layouts later levels will have to make the process of gathering energy even more of a challenge—once multiple orbs and bumpers are in play early in the demo, gameplay seems rather mindless.
Using the sword, players can charge these orbs, the charge indicated by color and speed. At some point, these orbs will go at a speed that will actually damage the player, but a well-timed sword swing will catch orbs, which stay in place while being charged and can be launched with the pipe. Later in the demo, Creature in the Well felt more like a game of tennis rather than pinball, catching and launching any orb that comes your way.
Creature in the Well has an art style that I didn’t necessarily expect from the premise, but I encountered some bold imagery while running around cel-shaded environments. The developers mentioned that the levels in their dungeon crawler game were not procedurally generated, with all levels being hand-crafted. It would be easy for a game with this setting to only use shades of brown and orange, but the color palette is wider than the premise of an ancient facility in the desert would suggest.
It felt a bit lonely wandering this dungeon, but I suppose it was deliberate, with this facility being abandoned for a number of presumed reasons. Based on this slice of the world I was left with questions, however, of the larger world that this BOT-C robot was attempting to save. I imagine that this robot is meant to be a template, saying nothing and having a very classically heroic appearance by donning a sword and cape.
While the demo didn’t feature any other pieces of equipment other than the sword and pipe, I remained curious about how weapons you encounter later in the game will add variety to the somewhat straightforward gameplay. I asked the developers what kind of variety players might expect later in the game, and it came in the form of different pieces of equipment, most not seen in the demo.
One weapon that I didn’t encounter in the demo was a set of dual blades, which provides the player character with a laser sight—I imagine that this feature would make the pinball gameplay a bit more strategic. Other equipment mentioned included a magnetic fork, an ax that splits the orbs into multiple ones, and numerous capes that provide upgrades, such as one that adds a bit of charge to orbs.
In terms of level design, some areas will be easier to navigate with some of these tools equipped. Granted, I was assured that the entire game was playable with any toolset, but the developers didn’t deny any similarity to the Metroid series, with some obtainable weapons and tools allowing access to non-mainline areas.
Based on this brief demo and comments from the developers, what we’ve seen so far from Flight School Studio contains a great foundation to work off of. Creature in the Well will be available on Switch and PC this summer.