Animal Well Review – A Master Class in Environmental Design

Animal Well Well amused, surprised, or scared me with something new at every turn, as it confidently jumped from one idea to the next until it reached its conclusion. That novelty lost some of its luster toward the end of its 8-10-hour runtime, but I trod the fresh shine off familiar ground, but it never lost its lively, naturally wild heart — even when occasional difficulty spikes added to that dullness. Yet, its tense atmosphere is inherently compelling. Illuminated by dangling lanterns and brought to life with lovingly animated animals and Rube Goldberg-like puzzles but overshadowed by an ominous synth tone reminiscent of Twin Peaks’ haunting score, Animal Well establishes itself with a rare, masterful sense of place.

In Animal Well, you play as a little doll who needs to go home. Similar to other Metroidvania games like Super Metroid or Hollow Knight, your path is linear; You must collect items and powerups that unlock new abilities, which – sometimes literally – open new doors.

The powerless, adorable little blob became a distant memory as I added to my arsenal of motion-enhancing and puzzle-solving tools. These playful tools like the frisbee, bubble wand, yo-yo or slinky highlight the crazy nature of Animal Well. Each tool has clever alternative uses, encouraging me to challenge what I previously thought were its barriers in exciting ways. Instead of rubbing awkwardly against the seams of this Swiss watch of the world, I felt like I was pulling a fast one on creator Billy Basso — even though he was probably in on my plan.

I first realized the versatile power these tools have when I was fighting one of the ghosts of Animal Well after setting off some firecrackers to scare one out of a dark room. Generally, you can’t check your map in the dark. But bursting these firecrackers suddenly lit up the room enough to check my map. Immersive touches like these add layers of flavor and vitality to its world.

Expanding and going beyond what you thought was possible in Animal Well will reveal a wealth of secrets and surprises, such as collectible secret eggs. Expanding your oval arsenal opens up fast travel options and even more game-expanding trinkets. Basso’s love for museums and architecture shines through in the richly realized world of Animal Well. Furnished with bespoke landmarks such as tile art murals of rabbits, statues of capybaras and rats on hamster wheels that power the Well’s mystical mechanisms, these flourishes (sometimes literally) electrify each room.

It subtly balances just the right amount of cheekiness into its surreal vibe. At one point, I found myself looking for the next corridor. Figuring that I would find at least one egg, I jumped down the big pit. Hitting the ground with an unceremonious “thunk,” I landed near the three penguin-shaped shrubs I’d walked past minutes ago. Descending back to the decoration after the fall, the only way back was a grueling ascent, which gave meaning and life. I thought its developers were having fun with my flightless avatar.

Animal Well hides its fangs in the powerlessness of its main character: no fight against large predators chasing you. Often, those moments highlight a wiser approach to progress. But they sometimes expose its biggest flaw. As with many classics of the genre, the checkpoints here are its save points. With only a handful scattered across the map, I spent more time revisiting the rooms I’d already explored from top to bottom. It’s detrimental to a game with a bad sense of style, but Animal Well’s smell-the-roses action is so sweet it’s nothing more than an inconvenience.

Filled with wonder and delight with life, mysteries and charm, Animal Well held my full, undivided attention. Even in its most trying moments, thanks to its absorbing soundscape, distinct yet familiar pixel-based art style, and flexible, mold-breaking approach to exploration.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top