Lily’s Well is a lo-fi horror adventure game with a charming top-down NES aesthetic. You play as an anime girl named Lily who hears a voice calling for help from the well by her isolated cabin in the woods. Your job is to explore the house and its surroundings while collecting materials to make a rope. Depending on how many materials you assemble, you’ll be able to descend to a different level of the well. Each of the ten levels is its own horrible ending.
There are ten “good” materials and another five “bad” materials that you can find. If you incorporate a bad material into your rope, it will break. Lily will die, and you’ll have to start over again from the beginning. The game doesn’t signpost which materials are good or bad, so you have to go through them one by one and figure this out for yourself using the process of elimination. I got very frustrated very quickly, but this could have just been me being impatient.
I found the guide (here) to be extremely useful. This isn’t so much a walkthrough as it is a list of materials and a FAQ, and you’ll still have to put the pieces of the game together yourself. While using the guide, it took me about three hours to get all of the endings.
If you use the guide judiciously, you can finish the game in about 45 minutes. This involves spending 25 minutes to get to the bottom of the well, and another 20 minutes to explore what’s down there. Every other ending is an instant gruesome death for Lily, while the bottom of the well is essentially the second half of the game. In all fairness, the game’s true ending has a much better payoff if you die a few times first, and there are all sorts of fun little secrets to play with between runs, including certain events that only trigger on multiple playthroughs.
I said at the beginning that Lily’s Well has an NES aesthetic, but it’s really more of an early 1990s MS DOS game. The graphics are primitive, but the game uses them extremely well and puts a lot of care into the adventure elements. There’s all sorts of text for anything you care to interact with; and, if you’re patient, it’s possible to figure everything out on your own without using a guide.
The adventure game elements of Lily’s Well were hit-or-miss for me, and what I really enjoyed was the game’s dark humor. It was fun to see this cute anime girl die in all sorts of fun and creative ways, and I loved how over-the-top gruesome each ending is. I kept playing to dig deeper into the lore and see just how gleefully horrible Lily’s world could get under its placid surface, and I was not disappointed.