Why, it was as simple as it was absurd: throw a little retro man down a frighteningly vast retro well, and live just long enough to make the sacrifice worthwhile. As for the reasoning behind such absurdity? It was never immediately clear. For those that accepted Downwell’s challenge, at least, it was found in the hunt for a high score and the captivating test of agility, reflexes, and skill that followed.
But for the game’s developer and his little retro creation come to life?
To this day his reason for jumping remains as much a mystery as the depths of a well itself…
Wells have always been inherently mysterious things. Constructed from stone and blood and sweat and tears, their depths are only ever alluded to, as is the work required to dig them. Ponder one from above or afar, for example, and you’ll find that only a small portion of the months or even years of back-breaking labour is ever seen above ground, as if a Titanic-sinking iceberg or one of Mario’s famous warp pipes.
Wells, then, are inherently mysterious, secretive things.
Back in 1996, Nintendo found itself in search of a landmark with which to rebuild their trademark, tunic-clad hero’s world around. Mario, it seems, wasn’t the only mascot of the time to come to mind when discussing wells, even if Link would be following his first, tentative footsteps into 3D polygonal space. A history buff might say their choice of a well was reminiscent of the tale that the Somerset towns of Wales and Bath were apparently built around ancient Roman springs and wells. Chances are, they mightn’t be far off.
The hurried sound of hammers ; the bustle of busy feet – some hours into Link’s journey, he stumbles on the township of Kakariko Village in the very literal process of being constructed, piece by piece, around a well. A beam here. A joist there. And all about, the infectious sense of a town come to life, revelling in the newfound freedom afforded to it in shaking off its 2D past.