For the next ten days, Dan will be posting picks for the Games of the Year in no particular order. These are favorites from 2015 that he actually played and were released during the calendar year. Enjoy!
Downwell is the only mobile game on this list, but one would be hard pressed to think how it could ever be played on a phone. A simple, straightforward game that relies on quick thinking and platforming skills, Downwell is gaming at its most pure.
Controlling a character that is animated like the best games on the Apple II and Commodore 64, you fall literally down a well. The character is equipped only with a set of gunboots that fire a limited amount of shots. Landing or stomping on an enemy reloads your footwear. A wide array of weapons for your gun boots can be found in side caves. There are, also, gems that are used as the game's currency. Collect enough gems to increase the power of your projectiles with a "Gem High".
Downwell earns its place on this list with basic addictive game play. Each run starts from the beginning in what is essentially a score attack mode. Every playthrough is fast dynamic and will stretch your old-school skills to the absolute limit.
There are a few unlockables of different palette colors with one even emulating the trademark blood red of the Virtual Boy. Different "styles" open up new avenues to play such as like having more health or floater jumps.
However, there is an unique aspect to Downwell that pushes it beyond most games of similar ilk. Every enemy dispatched adds to a combo counter that resets any time the character lands on the ground. Trying to string together a long absurd combo is the epiphanic moment to this "simple" game. A small number floats above the character's head increasing with each stomp and shot. With enough skill, players can simply bypass the ground for entire sets of levels in a long, outrageous fall. It is absorbing as anything I've played this year.
Downwell is cheap, easy to learn, hard to master, and a wonderful blend of old computer graphics and mobile games that is best played on a PC with a controller. Somehow everything adds up to one of the best games of the year.
Come back tomorrow and practice your parkour for another game of the year pick.