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Sebastion Mauldin

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Animal Well Review

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Ah Animal Well. This is a game that I went hands on with at Pax back in 2023. On the Pax show floor, I didn’t get a lot of time with it, but I do remember thinking that this isn’t a game that demos well. That is because this game works best as a whole entrée instead of a snack. To get a sense of what it is, you have to look at it as a whole and see how each room and puzzle works. You have to explore to find your way and in my case, often sit and ponder your routes a bit. So is Animal Well better than what I remembered from my brief time with it back in 2023? Should you play it? Find out in this Animal Well review!

Lets dive into it.

Animal Well Review - Image 1
Animal Well Review – Image 1

The Narrative:

First off, let’s talk narrative.

So right off the bat I want to say that it is so dope that this was developed by one person by the name of Billy Basso. He created this game and he should be incredibly proud. Billy Basso and the game’s publisher, Bigmode, describe Animal Well as follows: Hatch from your flower and spelunk through the beautiful and sometimes haunting world of Animal Well, a pixelated wonder rendered in intricate audio and visual detail. Encounter lively creatures small and large, helpful and ominous as you discover unconventional upgrades and unravel the well’s secrets. This is a truly unique experience that can make you laugh in fear, surprise, or delight.

I think for the most part that is an accurate description of the game as a whole. Personally, I wished that there was some effect put into giving us a narrative with this game. Just like in my V Rising review, there’s zilch in terms of backstory here. I get it, not every game needs a narrative, but come on, a little something to sink your teeth into would’ve been nice. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Those looking for a story should continue looking elsewhere. If that isn’t important to you then this might be your jam.

Animal Well Review - Image 2
Animal Well Review – Image 2

The Gameplay:

In Animal Well, you take on the role of an unassuming little brown dot that I called Phil, and set out into a dark, beautiful, and dangerous world: Everything is out to kill you. Unlike most Metroidvania titles, however, you aren’t immediately granted a weapon or power to attempt to dispose of enemies…in fact, Phil is mostly powerless through the entirety of the game. As The Brown dot, Phil you run, platform, climb ladders, and solve puzzles in each area that you are free to explore mostly in any order.

Instead of combat over time, you’ll find and access to a selection of tools for example, there is a wand generating jumpable bubbles, and a disc for activating switches and buttons in inaccessible spots. These tools amplify your room navigation skills and aid in deciphering the numerous puzzles awaiting your exploration as you seek to uncover the enigma of your surroundings. Delving further would spoil the surprise, but rest assured, you’ll discover items to assist in puzzle-solving while evading formidable adversaries bent on your demise.

This game takes a lot of what worked for other people with Zelda Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom and puts it into a Puzzle Platforming Metroidvania. It doesn’t tell you where to go or really what to do and leaves that up to the player. Most seem to enjoy that characteristic. Me not so much. I like direction and I like having a goal in mind.

Animal Well Review - Image 3
Animal Well Review – Image 3

Additional Pros:

Because of the Art style, I feel like I played this game on the Super Nintendo 30 years ago. It has a charming nostalgic feeling to it. The art style is gorgeous. There is a lot of detail that is illustrated in the environments using its pixel art style. The visuals, particle effects, and sonic design are incredible. The smoke alone makes me crazy about it, not to mention the lighting or spooky bird calls. I could forget myself in this 2D world. How does it all fit into less than 40 MB of data?! That is some genius-level programming only possible with a custom engine, and it still leaves me in awe because I played the game on Steam Deck immediately after the release, and it had zero bugs. Each area, enemy, hazard, and platform are well illustrated and evokes a sense of mystery and suspense.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised by this considering how small the game size is and the type of game that it is, but it plays amazing on the Steam Deck. In fact, it is Steam Deck verified for those of you who care about that. Being able to play anything of the Deck is a major plus for me nowadays.

Animal Well Review - Image 4
Animal Well Review – Image 4


I dislike a fair amount about the game. For example, I didn’t like that some of the items like the fireworks for example simply go away when you die. Having to go back and grab more felt like a tedious chore. The Platforming in the game is for the most part well thought out and well done. There are some instances however where it demands that you are perfect and precise. At those times the game quickly got frustrating.

This is a “me” problem, but I would have loved a hint button or some more guidance on how to solve some of the game’s puzzles. I would have loved to get notified that I needed an item for a certain part and to come back letter. Some people love when games don’t hold your hand though so that is for sure an issue only select people like myself have with games like this.

Animal Well Review - Image 5
Animal Well Review – Image 5

Overall/Should you Play Animal Well:

I appreciate Animal Well, but I didn’t enjoy my time playing it. It’s not to say that this is a bad game, on the contrary, this is a testament to how well the game nails its vision as a hands-off Puzzle Metroidvania. If you like games where the enjoyment of the it comes from you going anywhere and just figuring things out as you go then this is going to be your jam. People who liked the games Fez and Tunic would probably go hard and lose themselves playing this.
My brain often felt fried and the more I played it the more I realized that while I like select puzzle games this wasn’t one of them.

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Reviewed on PC

Sebastion Mauldin

Animal Well Review


Single Player, Metroidvania, Puzzle, Platformer, Indie


Gorgous Art Style, Good Sound Effects, Good Platforming


No Instructions, No Hint System,


Billy Basso




May 9, 2024

Overall Rating: