A Rough Night

The Free-to-Play genre can be considered one of the biggest coin flips in gaming. Whether it’s a passion project with a goal to let the masses play what you’ve made or you’re planning to procure wallets from gamers without the sticker shock of an upfront asking price, go on Steam or itch.io and see exactly what I mean. One of the biggest proprietors of the F2P market is Horror, and with Lily’s Well, you’ll see a brightly colored DOS-like point and click and wonder, “Well this doesn’t look like horror?” So, it’s uh.

It’s a doozy.

On a rainy Vermont night in the Spring of 2005, Lily is home alone again with her father out doing business. Through the pattering of rain and the outside noises of a forested backdrop, a cry for help pierces the night and awakens Lily from her sleep. Hearing how far away the sound is coming from, Lily suspects it is coming from the well outside the house. Anxious to help whoever may be in trouble, Lily searches in and around her house to pull any items that could be used as a rope to help climb down the well and do her best to save the person in need, even if it goes against her father’s rules and wishes.

Boot up the ole’ DOS programs and take a trip back to the CGA graphics of yester-decade. Lines, dots, and squiggles craft together a small forested area for Lily to try and gather everything needed for her rope. The over-saturated tones harken back to the days in which visual representation was guided by a stark difference in coloration, but it would’ve been nice to have tone downed Lily’s as her colors are a little wild and abrasive to look at, even if reasons for her looking that way are eventually established. There are multiple costumes that can be unlocked which are a nice reprieve; we were big fans of the Frog costume over here.

Almost everything in and around Lily’s house is a point of interest, as Lily can examine and try to take anything to help her progress forward. There are 15 different pieces of  “rope” to find, but some are marked as “bad” pieces of rope requiring that you apply some common sense to make sure you don’t utilize tied up toilet paper to hold your childlike body weight. Finding specific items will grant access to other places that may be locked or deadbolted or behind a keycode. For having roughly 8-10 screens of area before descending the titular Well, PurIceBlue does well to fit several a-ha moments and unlockables within plain sight.

Once you have your rope parts picked out and tied together to descend into the Well, Lily’s Well hits a bloody, uncomfortable turning point. The game will be rather tame throughout the first hour or so (barring you’re not playing in the road), then making it down the well will net you one of several endings depending on your number and quality of rope. This is where Lily’s Well rips the carpet from under you and slams a grotesque cocktail of body horror, sci-fi dread, and more child murder than you’ll ever be used to.

Taking some spiritual tips from titles like Returnal failure is just a step closer to success, as each ending provides a clue to unlocking the True Ending. This gives you plenty of time to see how many brutal mistakes you can make to this poor child. Some endings are hard to look at, with some truly gruesome scenes blending in natural and floral horror alongside scientific and sci-fi body horror. Though Lily’s Well provides 10+ endings, some overlap with the same structure of ending as well as the same image, which is a shame considering how genuinely interesting most of the endings are only to have a few just be copied and pasted, deflating the effect that ending’s run.

Even though there are some missteps along the way, and its plot feels a bit bloated trying to provide a decent quantity of endings, Lily’s Well provides a decent depth of content and a stout amount of unsettling moments of horror. But most of these issues are sidestepped with the fact that Lily’s Well is absolutely free, so all it will cost is your time…

…and maybe a few nights of sleep.

A copy of this game was independently downloaded for review.