Action Game of the Year 2015: Downwell

By Matt Thrower 18 Dec 2015 0
My eyes! My eyes!


It's hard to make satisfying action games for a touchscreen. So much so that, this year, developers seem to have given up. You'll get an idea of how few candidates we had for this category when you see what we picked as the runner-up.



There was, however, a clear winner in Downwell. It takes the same path as the majority of successful shooters on mobile by keeping things as simple as possible. Remember those frantic vertical scrolling shooters that were all the rage in the coin-op era?  Well Downwell is like that, except you go down instead of up. It's amazing how much extra excellence you get from the formula simply by adding gravity.

Throw in a dash of procedural generation and you get a brilliant twitch game of brutal difficulty. Plummeting down a tube at breakneck speed you're making constant snap judgement about what to shoot, what to collect and what to land on. You'll get most of them wrong and die a lot. But that's part of the charm. The short play times that result make it an ideal fit for mobile. And you get a little better with each depth, a little further down the shaft.

The lure of discovering what's lurking below is as good a driver for progress as the lure of improvement. Scenery and monsters change with the passing of levels. What was safe to land on or bounce off once may not be again. So you expire, and learn, and the great cosmic flywheel of death and rebirth trundles onward. Or rather downward.



For the more tactically discerning, there's a lot to think about in Downwell. You only have a limited number of shots in your gunboots before you have to land and recharge, so they must be used wisely. You can find, earn and purchase upgrades which must be used in mutually supportive combinations for success. You need to learn how the enemies behave to avoid or defeat them. And you must do all of these things at terrifyingly high speed.

It's one of those games that's catapulted to the top of the ratings by a gimmick so simple you'll wish you'd thought of it. But you didn't. So do the next best thing and get Downwell if you need a new go-to twitch game to add to your arsenal.

To see all of the games recognized in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2015 Awards, visit the 2015 Awards Index page.
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