It seems the platforming genre is once again on the rise and gaining traction, but with so many games already available, you’d have to expect new arrivals to know exactly what is needed for us to gather total enjoyment. Right? Well, with that in mind I jumped in to see if Wells, one of the latest platforming arrivals, has what it takes to join the ranks of the greatest platformers out there.
Wells takes players to a beautifully designed Steampunk world to take on the role of Wells; a man who is out for revenge, and after the blood of another, Hyde. Why is he after him? I’m not sure I can answer that, due to the lack of story involved. In fact, other than small sections, with an even smaller bit of text included, I’m not sure the developers at Tower Up Studios have given me enough information to understand it. Regardless though, he’s after him and if you’re told to do something in a game you do it, and so it’s up to you to stop him.
The story takes place throughout ten quite short levels, in which players do plenty of jumping, shooting and running – after all, this is a run and gun platformer. Playing through is simple enough with the shooting controlled by way of a dotted line, showing you the path your bullet is going to take, with interactive objects such as levers and…actually, just levers, that can be used with a bash of the B button. Other than that though? Well, that’s about all there is to it. Wells is a simple game you see, and that isn’t necessarily the problem, after all we’ve seen many other simple platformers arrive on console, most notably EA’s Unravel, or PlayDead’s Limbo and Inside, which all did a fine job of offering simple yet enjoyable gameplay throughout. Wells however isn’t a case of simple and enjoyable, but rather of dull and uninspiring from start to finish.
From the enemies to the levels and everything in between, it seems nothing has really been given the love that we’ve come to appreciate in many other platformers. I’m all for unique and original, but Wells does nothing to offer either of those, instead providing simple mechanics that don’t always work, leaving plenty to wish for.
One problem I found early on was just how useless the melee combat was. Sure it’s in there, which given the lack of many things that are the norm in a platformer, we should really be applauding, but unfortunately it doesn’t do much use other than to move levers. That is a problem itself due to melee attacks taking longer than necessary and the need to be in the perfect position to activate said levers. But more importantly, melee attacks, by their very nature, are supposed to be used against enemies. Now, whilst I’m sure that anyone fortunate enough to get close enough to use a series of them without being attacked would be able to fend off their foe, I wasn’t one of those. In fact, every time I tried to melee an enemy I would simply find myself dying from the bullets being fired my way, rather than actually inflicting any meaningful damage.
This is made even worse by the fact that the enemies aren’t very interesting at all. From the first level to the last, the variation in enemies is hardly enough to keep even the most casual of gamers interested. One reason for this is that in the early levels, most enemies look near enough the same as your protagonist. This can make things particularly tricky when it comes to an area in which several are bunched together, and even after you’ve made it past the early ones, later levels do nothing more interesting than changing the enemies and their attacks to something as equally dull as you’ve seen previously. Of course there are boss fights at the end of each level, but none of these even pose much of a real threat and I couldn’t really find myself enjoying any battle I found myself in, in turn making the gameplay feel tedious and unnecessary.
Another thing that really bugged me throughout the entirety of my time with Wells is with the ammo counter. Admittedly this is a trivial thing to be finding a problem with, but it’s a problem nevertheless. At the bottom of the screen you can find the remaining ammo for whichever weapon you find yourself holding – with various ones available to pick up throughout the first five or six levels – however, an ammo counter is only useful for games in which ammo is an issue. In Wells, simply waiting for just a few seconds once your ammo has depleted is enough to see it refilled to the top once more to use as you wish, therefore making the whole ‘counting’ process a near pointless inclusion.
Although many people will look at that as me being slightly picky, I can’t help but wonder why there would be an ammo counter when there is clearly no need, yet the melee button is used for interacting with things instead of an actual interaction button, and I found myself asking this on several different occasions throughout my playthrough. Another obvious one was why the developers would make a surprisingly pleasant Steampunk design and then have characters that would seemingly blend in to the background, to the point that it’s a struggle to define where they are until they move.
Of course, Wells isn’t an entirely terrible game and anyone looking for a simple platformer, or those looking for an easy boost to their Gamerscore, will be more than set with what it holds. But if you’re looking for an adventure that offers any form of engagement that stretches beyond the first level then you will certainly want to look elsewhere. Overall, and while it isn’t quite down there with the worst games of all time, it’s definitely no match for the best either. Unfortunately the bland and repetitive gameplay is enough to send this game to the back of the pile and is sure to be forgotten once you’ve nabbed that easy Gamerscore.