Subpar Steampunk Shooting
Wells sets out to take players on a steampunk sidescrolling shooter adventure. With some fun guns and an ammo system to keep players from just spraying shots all over the screen, it does provide some entertainment in its bright, old-timey machine filled world. However, a lack of weight and speed takes away from the fun, though, creating an experience that is not as enjoyable as it could be.
Wells seems to draw inspiration from early run-and-gun shooters, having players guide title character Wells through a world of armored cops, flying machines, and canon-firing dirigibles. You have an array of weapons that you unlock as you play, from your normal handguns and machine guns to remote mines and spike ball launchers. They all offer different arcs, power levels, and firing rates, so it does provide some nice variety.
That being said, there aren’t many reasons to swap guns. A few enemies can only be killed with the remote mines, but beyond that, anything works. Since most enemies come at you in a straight line or at an angle and any gun can fire in that direction, none of the guns really stands out as having specific uses. It’s nice to have multiple guns, but they all feel somewhat the same.
Each gun also has an ammo limit, but one that works well. It lists your number of shots alongside your gun on the bottom of the screen, and that number will seem awfully low until you see that it begins to recharge moments after you start firing. Each gun will refill with shots if you give it a few seconds, and it will recharge an infinite number of times.
What’s the point of showing ammo, then? That slight pause means you cannot spam any one weapon and just mow down your enemies. You can fire quite a few times, swapping between guns to keep shooting, but you can’t just pick one gun and mow everyone down. You have to consider when to fire and when not to, and whether you want to empty the chamber right now. Swapping guns does refill their ammo, though, so this feature isn’t all that taxing.
You can use melee while waiting for your bullets or if an enemy gets too close, but it all but doesn’t work. Enemies will always hit you first if you try to melee or will come in such numbers that meleeing them only locks you in place for the next foe. Then the next. And the next, until you die.
Your melee attack will also make life difficult when hitting levers. The game requires you hit a ton of them, but they will only work after one to three hits. This means you’re often slamming on a lever with your cane, praying it will open this time before the seven or eight guns charging your way catch up to you.
Not that you’ll die if you get hit. Wells offers a health bar that will recharge so long as players aren’t taking damage constantly. It softens the challenge you’d normally see in these kinds of game, but it also makes for a game that feels a little too loose with its difficulty.
Those who’ve played challenging run and gun games will feel this. Enemies can dogpile the player, but as long as they’re shooting, they’ll likely survive. As such, it feels like, instead of providing a challenging layout of enemies, the game just hurls piles of whatever foes happen to be around at the player. It’s quantity rather than quality, but for players looking for an easier sidescrolling shooter, it will appeal. Those wanting harder stuff won’t be impressed.
There’s also this lack of weight to everything. Shots don’t offer much in the way of visible impact. The character’s jump is floaty. Character animations seem a little slow, with running and jumping feeling just too pokey, as if the character were going through sludge. It all gives off this weird sense of happening in antigravity. It’s subtle, but it takes away the satisfaction of mowing down enemies and running around. It’s just a little too slow, in animation and in action, for this kind of game. It’s especially bad in vehicle levels, where it just feels like everything is moving at a crawl.
“Fun, but a lack of speed and impact takes away from how enjoyable Wells could be.”
The steampunk setting is used in neat ways, offering a different array of enemies. The machines and foes are all made up of this shiny, yet older-looking, tech, creating a World’s Fair look for the whole thing. It’s a pleasant touch that works with the setting and gives the game a little personality.
That being said, the visuals all have this washed-out, overly bright look to them that’s unpleasant to see. It looks like the brightness is cranked on the monitor, but it hasn’t been. Also, the cutscenes aren’t put together well, looking like someone is sliding animation cells across flat, dull backgrounds. And while steampunk is naturally a little ridiculous, some of these character models look absurd up close.
Also, it has very little in the way of music, and what it does have gets repetitive very quickly. A lot more variety would be needed to keep many people from turning it off after a stage or two.
The ammo limit and unique guns in a new setting make Wells stand out among sidescrolling shooters, but it’s that lack of impact and speed to the action and animations that drain its fun away. Shooting just offers little visual or audio impact, taking the fun out of firing a weapon, and all of the guns end up working relatively the same. Adding that onto the weird clunkiness to movements and you end up with a game that sucks a lot of the fun out of running and gunning.
A few tweaks might be able to make Wells more entertaining, but for now, it’s an overly-bright, slow, and unexciting run and gunner.