There’s one word I wanted to avoid while talking about Creature in the Well, the new game from maverick developer Flight School Studio: pinball. Even the studio rep speaking to me about the demo afterward seemed to tiptoe around it. They’ve been trying to emphasize action-RPG, dungeon crawler, hack and slash. Not pinball. Because when you mention Creature in the Well‘s pinball elements, it’s easy to get the wrong impression of what this game actually is.
This isn’t a pinball game. Just because it has bumpers and glowing orbs that bounce around the room racking up points does not a pinball game make. Creature in the Well is unlike anything I’ve ever played. It’s also one of the most visually-stunning games I can remember seeing. There’s something powerful, remarkable, even touching about the way its music, artwork, and gameplay combine. I found the experience of playing Creature in the Well‘s E3 demo strangely moving. Please do not pass over this game.
It takes a lot to pry me from the air-conditioned halls of the convention center and trek over the Microsoft Theater during E3, but an invite from the team behind Creature in the Well piqued my interest. There’s so much to say about this game. I could talk about the mechanics, how your main character, the last remaining BOT-C model robot, collects orbs into his glowing sword and flings them around the room with reckless abandon.
I could talk about how I nailed a precise puzzle requiring perfect timing and aim, unlocking a secret path that hid a valuable upgrade. I could talk about how the swelling, sweeping ambient synth drones contribute to the sense of wonder, mystery, and danger lurking behind each door of this strange world. But none of these things on their own can explain the effect that Creature in the Well has. It’s gripping. I was bowled over by it.
Every moment of this game oozes style. The rust-orange pipes jutting up from the landscape. The glowing pastel hues guiding you through the doorway, where clean rows of pipes web and weave to the exit. It’s not real, it’s surreal, it’s hyperreal. It’s like a walking comic book, but most comic books never touch this level of visual coherence and artistic excellence. The game arrests you with its domineering vision, demanding to be seen, to be paid attention to. It’s impossible to look away.
This was a jam-packed E3. It’s easy to forget about smaller games when you’re spending all day in appointments, rushing from one to the next to see the latest cut-and-dry AAA spectacle. But I couldn’t get Creature in the Well out of my head. When people asked me about the games I’d seen, I always ended up mentioning it—and trying not to say the word pinball.
It’s entirely possible that a game like this could get washed away in the high tide of constant new game releases, the saturation and screeching information overload that makes it difficult for softer voices to be heard. So, all I can say to Creature in the Well is that I hear you. And it’s a beautiful song.
Creature in the Well emerges onto PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch this summer.