Contemporary Game Assignment

I played quite a few small games for this blog post, such as the games of Lilith Zone and Arcane Kids. These games were very good, but not really suitable for this blog post, as they defy the sort of formalism and methods the MDA describes. So I decided to do it on Downwell instead, a game I played recently for unrelated reasons to this class, but is definitely analyzable under this format.
What were the game’s apparent design goals? Did it succeed at those goals? Why or why not?
The design goal seems pretty apparent to me – to provide a (figuratively) addicting experience. Not for any shady purposes or anything, just to create a game the player can continuously go back to over and over to entertain themselves or pass time. It succeeds in this by making the game very fast paced, as well as randomizing the areas so that the player always has to navigate the levels slightly differently.

What were the mechanics? What was the play experience? What is the relationship between the two? Did you find any strategies that were exploitable? Did the game seem well-balanced?
The mechanics were very simple, involving using “gunboots” to maneuver downward through a vertical shaft. The gunboots can slow your descent and help you move horizontally, but you need to touch a ledge or land on top of an enemy in order to recharge them. These mechanics alone create a fun experience, as the structure of the shaft encourages you to proceed quickly down it, but going slow can sometimes be a lot safer.
What kinds of interesting decisions (and uninteresting ones) were you making through the game?
Between levels, you get the opportunity to choose an upgrade. A lot of the upgrades’ usefulness depend on one’s play style. For example, one allowed you to eat dead enemies. But if you’re focusing on speeding through the well, you probably won’t stop and eat any of the enemies. So that upgrade is really only suited to some runs through the game, letting the player shape the way they play and interact with the world.
Name of the game and its developer: Downwell, by Moppin
Describe the core mechanics of the game: Gunboots, jumping on enemies, collecting gems to unlock palettes, choosing upgrades, ducking into siderooms…
Include the Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics (MDA) of the game, showing how they emerge from the mechanics: Gunboots allow you to jump on enemies, which allows you to use the gunboots again. Upgrades can give you more ways to maneuver about and siderooms can contain different weapons for your boots. The visuals are very clear, with enemies color-coded to where you can jump on them.
State the game’s design goals. Then, indicate whether you feel the game met those goals, explaining why or why not: Create an engaging and replayable experience out of something simplistic. It certainly did, even though I’m not one to get “addicted” to something like a video game, I can definitely see it being something enjoyable to play a lot.
Note anything else you can about the game (such as a particular issue with game balance or a unique use of game components): There’s nothing much else to note. I guess I could say the boss at the end is really really cool, but that’s more of personal opinion than anything.
Lastly, if you were the designer, what would you change about the game (if anything)?: I think it’s fine as it is. If I was the designer I would have made a completely different game, so for their purposes and their design ideas, it turned out alright.

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