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Video Game / Downwell

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This is certainly not the usual Timmy in a Well.

Downwell is a game about falling down a well. Numerous enemies and a few hazards make this trip more dangerous than your standard falling down a well, which is why the unnamed protagonist brought their gunboots along. Gameplay is centered around making your way to the bottom of the well, shooting or jumping on anything that tries to get in your way.

Developed by Moppin, published by Devolver Digital, and released in late 2015, it is available on Steam, mobile phones, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo Switch. The game's lead would also become a fighter in Indie Pogo and Fraymakers.


Downwell contains examples of the following tropes:

  • All There in the Manual: The protagonist is only ever named and gendered in the crossovers noted above.note 
  • Anti-Air: Certain upgrades function exclusively to guard the protagonist's upper area against flying enemies they might have passed by.
    • Gunpowder Blocks cause destroyed blocks to explode and shoot bullets straight up, the former of which can cause chain reactions in clusters of blocks.
    • Popping Gems functions on the same principle as the above, but the shooting of bullets is triggered by collecting gems.
    • In addition to slowing your fall, the Heart Balloon pops explosively if an enemy touches it.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Objects such as ceramics in the Caverns or air-filled barrels in the Aquifer can be bounced off of to reload the Gunboots, given that they aren't shot before the player lands on them. The objects in Limbo, however, won't get destroyed if they're shot; given that Limbo's gimmick is hosting Spiny-type enemies nigh-exclusively and coating almost every inch of floor with spikes, this is appreciated as otherwise, hard-to-control projectiles like Hot Casings or the Noppy would be a death sentence in this area.
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  • Armed Legs: The gunboots.
  • Arrange Mode: The aptly named "Hard Mode", only available after beating the game, takes things up a few notches and massively increases the difficulty of the game. You thought it was hard before? You'll think it's a cakewalk by the time you beat this mode.
    • All areas boast a lot more enemies than before, making it more difficult to navigate without getting hurt, but you can get some crazy rewards due to the ability to land bigger combos.
    • The Caverns introduces a new enemy that looks like a clam, floating side by side in the air. Can only be killed by stomping, similar to the turtle. It also introduces an enemy that homes in on you from above, forcing you to pick up the pace.
    • The Catacombs' spikes function on a timer instead of activating when you land, forcing a different approach on when to refill or cash in a combo.
    • Oxygen in the Aquifer drains faster, and you have to pick up free-floating bubbles instead of stomping on objects that contain them.
    • Limbo now features a multitude of enemies from other areas, and fewer floating objects. This means you'll have to stomp on enemies to recharge instead!
    • The final boss now fires two shots per hitpoint lost instead of one.
  • Attackable Pickup: Reverse Engineering allows you to change a gun mod into a different one once by shooting it.
  • Attack Drone: The drone upgrade has a drone follow you around, shooting bullets downwards as you do.
  • Awesomeness Meter: Killing strings of enemies without touching the ground grants you a combo bonus. 8 gives you 100 gems, 15 adds in 1 extra gunboot charge, and 25 comes with 1 extra health.
  • Balloonacy: Downplayed example, but the Heart Balloon makes you fall more slowly.
  • Big Boo's Haunt: The second area of the game.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Two of the achievements contain Japanese in their names. One of them is Sugoinote  Combo, for getting a hundred-enemy streak, and the other is Mottainainote , for completing a level without shooting the gunboots.
  • Bottomless Pits: Limbo is an area with next to no solid ground to stand on, forcing free-fall. The only ways to recharge your gunboots are to either land in side-areas or stomp on random floating objects.
  • Buffy Speak: The trophies/achievements refer to the enemies in the fourth area as "stuff".
  • Cosmetic Award: Collecting a certain amount of gems gives you a palette swap for the game.
  • Challenge Run: While it's never stated that it exists within the game itself, if you decide to take a Self-Imposed Challengenote , the room before the final boss fight will feature a tomato that grants 8 health and 10 charges instead of a shop.
  • Dem Bones: Skeletons that throw bones at you are one of the enemy types in the Catacombs.
  • Denial of Diagonal Attack: Almost all of the guns shoot straight down, with no ability to aim. The exceptions are the Triple and Shotgun, which shoot in a fairly narrow cone, and the Noppy, which angles slightly in the direction the player is moving.
  • Discount Card: Comes in two varieties:
    • The Member's Card upgrade guarantees that you find a shop at the start of each level and makes shop items cost 10% less.
    • Handstand Style passively guarantees a shop every floor and makes shop items cheaper for the whole run. The main downside to it is that you do not get any upgrades.
  • Dungeon Shop: The rotund shopkeeper seems to be doing perfectly fine two miles deep in the well. Justified In that his shops are all located inside of time-proof bubbles.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The final boss.
  • Eldritch Location: Limbo. Most of the terrain is hazardous, the enemies are floating black blobs, and there are random objects floating in the air that you can jump on.
  • Energy Weapon: The Laser gun module shoots a piercing laser downwards.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: All the gun modules are this, with exception to the Noppy.
  • Extreme Omnivore: The Knife and Fork upgrade lets the player eat corpses to heal. These include sheets from ghosts and bones left behind by the skeleton and skull enemies.
  • Flunky Boss: The boss spawns a few enemies every time it gets hurt. These enemies drop lots of gems, making it perfect to maintain Gem Highnote .
  • The Goomba: The weakest enemy of the game is the worm. Exclusive to the Caverns and Catacombs, it barely poses a threat, as it doesn't do anything but slowly move from side to side and its hitbox is too small for the player to normally take damage from it by walking at it from the side; it needs to be on a ledge and the player needs to touch it from the low ground in order to actually take damage.
  • Goomba Stomp: Landing on an enemy's head is a one-hit kill with few exceptions. It's also the only way to kill turtles. The Blast Module upgrades this so that stomping on enemies also causes an explosion that can hurt other enemies.
  • Healing Potion: The Apple upgrade heals you by 4 HP, but you can only take it once. Shops also sell items that recover your health. Youth also slightly fits this trope, but it only heals you by 1 HP.
  • Heart Container:
    • Buying Curry increases your maximum health by 1.
    • Collecting any item that refills your health (including heart gun mods and 25 combo bonuses) when you're at full health will instead fill a meter below your health. The meter grants you 1 extra maximum health if you do this 4 times.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism:
    • Downplayed by the Knife and Fork upgrade. You can eat corpses to heal if the upgrade is equipped, but you need to eat 10 bodies to restore 1 health.
    • Played straighter with the shops, which will sell you rice balls, sushi and energy drinks that heal you, as well as curry that increases your maximum health.
    • There's also the Apple upgrade, which heals 4 health after you eat it, as indicated by it being shown as an apple core afterwards.
  • Immune to Bullets: Some enemies won’t take damage from gunfire. A stomp is the only way to kill them.
  • Macrogame: Throughout your runs, you slowly gain new color schemes for the game and different styles to play.
  • Made of Explodium:
    • The Heart Balloon appears to be made of this, since it explodes when an enemy touches it, making it good for defending yourself from enemies that attack you from above.
    • The Rest in Pieces upgrade turns enemy corpses into this, causing them to explode if you shoot them.
  • Mercy Invincibility: You get some for a brief moment when you take damage. The Candle upgrade makes it last much longer.
  • Minimalism: Game mechanics-wise, Downwell compresses a lot of mechanics into only a few working parts. A few examples: the Gunboots can be used to break blocks, kill enemies, and slow your descent; gems are used as a currency, count as points for the palette/style unlocks, and contribute towards the Gem High mode; enemies pose a threat to the player, but also function as parts of a combo, and a means to reload the Gunboots. You can watch Mark Brown's analysis on it here.
  • Money Mauling:
    • Entering Gem High mode increases the range and damage of the player's weapons. The Gem Sick upgrade makes the duration last longer and appropriately changes the name at the top of the screen.
    • Popping Gems turns all money collected into upwards-firing bullets.
    • Gem Powered adds to the player's ammo whenever they pick up a gem.
  • More Dakka: The machine gun, burst, and noppy gun modules.
  • Nintendo Hard: Don't expect to get past level 2 very often at all.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: There's no reason given as to why the main character jumped down the well until the end of the game, where they rescue a cat that's stuck at the bottom.
  • One-Word Title: Also a Portmantitle.
  • Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles: In the Aquifer area.
  • Palette Swap: One of the main types of unlockables you earn. Initially, you only unlock minor changes like making the main color green or blue instead of red, but several dozen unique color schemes are available.
  • Power-Up: The gun modules that you find in caves generally fill this trope, changing how your gunboots fire until you collect another one. In addition to the different weapon types, they can either permanently increase your gunboots' charge by 2 or heal you by 1 HP.
  • Power-Up Magnet: The Gem Attractor, as its name implies, pulls gems to you from farther away.
  • Recoil Boost: In addition to helping you defeat enemies, the gunboots also slow your descent as you fire. How much it slows your descent is dependent on what module you have equipped. The Laser and Shotgun modules can even increase your height.
  • Rocket Boots: The safety jetpack upgrade turns your gunboots into this when you are out of ammo.
  • Rocket Jump: The aptly named Rocket Jump upgrade. It creates an explosion around yourself when you jump off the ground and increases your jump height.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better:
    • The shotgun shoes, obviously. They chew up a lot of ammo, though.
    • The Puncher is like a diet version of this, consuming significantly less ammo, but firing a tighter spread of three pellets.
  • Shout-Out: The third palette you unlock is a gray-green color, named "GBOY". The one after that is shades of red, and is named "VBOY".
  • Skill Gate Character: Levitate Style lets the player fall at a reduced speed, making it easier to avoid damage and keep the Gunboots reloaded. However, falling slower also makes it harder to keep up a Gem High for long durations of time.
  • The Spiny: Several enemy types will hurt you if you try to jump on them, indicated by having a different color on the outside.
  • Spread Shot: The spread module has your gunboots fire out three bullets in a cone, despite only using two charges to fire.
  • Stone Wall: In a sense, Boulder Style. It gives you 6 Max HP at start instead of the usual 4, but you can only pick between two upgrades between levels instead of 3 and you fall at a faster speed.
  • Super Mode: Collect enough gems, and you enter "Gem High", increasing your damage output. This period only lasts for a limited time, but you gain more time in Gem High by collecting gems. The Gem Sick upgrade makes this last longer.
  • Swiss Army Weapon: The same gunboots fire off several different types of bullets, but the only way to switch between types is finding a gun mod.
  • Time Stands Still: In areas where you find power-ups or shops, there is a bubble that stops time for everything outside of it when you enter. You can also get a power-up that creates one whenever you take damage.
  • Turns Red: The Floating Skulls in the catacombs do this after you shoot them once, their red (or blue, green, pink, etc.) color indicating you can't Goomba Stomp them anymore. They also abandon their aimless wandering to rush you.
  • Under the Sea: Complete with Oxygen Meter. You aren't any slower in the water, however. It's between two other areas, the one below it being devoid of water even though it should flow down.
  • Universal Ammunition: The gunboots use charges as ammo, which can shoot out any type of bullet.
  • Unorthodox Reload: Gunboots automatically recharge whenever the player's feet hit something, regardless of whether it was solid ground or bouncing off of an enemy.
  • Variable Terminal Velocity: Levitate style has you fall slower than normal, while Boulder Style makes you fall faster.
  • Wall Jump: The player can do one in a fashion similar to Metroid, by pressing away from the wall and hitting the jump button. Since the object of the game is to go down, this is mostly useful if you missed something right above.