Animal Well
May 25, 2024 10:16 PM - Subscribe

Explore a dense, interconnected labyrinth, and unravel its many secrets. Collect items to manipulate your environment in surprising and meaningful ways. Encounter beautiful and unsettling creatures, as you attempt to survive what lurks in the dark. There is more than what you see.

Commonly placed in the metroidvania genre, Animal Well is developer Shared Memory's first foray into gaming. The lo-fi pixel art has a highly luminescent vibe, and lighting in general plays a key theme in the game.

Russ Frushtick, Polygon reviews:
Animal Well is devious in the way it presents itself. At first glance, it’s a simple 2D exploration game with no combat whatsoever. Your goal? Hard to say, beyond some vague markings on a large map. It appears to be a very lo-fi take on the Metroidvania genre, with basic, switch-based puzzles blocking your way.

But as you explore this world, its secrets unravel before you in fascinating ways. Ways that I desperately don’t want to explain, but I realize I have to in order to convey why this is one of the most inventive games of the last decade.
Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, Rock Paper notes the post game depth:
There are other sights and sounds that take awhile to dawn on you, things you might want to circle back to after you've rolled the credits - which, according to publisher Bigmode, means you'll have seen around half of what Animal Well has to offer.
Available on PS5, Switch and Windows. Also currently on PS+.
posted by pwnguin (3 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There's definitely a lot to do post-credits, but even just playing once to the credits, this was a nice experience. I've started it up a few times afterwards to poke around the map to look for more secrets, but it doesn't feel super necessary. AFAICT, there's no real story but tons of vibes.

It does a lot of things very well, but know that it's a bit heavier on platforming than many games in the genre. (One item lets you sidestep a lot of platforming when you get it, but it's quite late in the game.) A few rooms need very precise input timing. Deaths to falling are "free", deaths to hostiles or spikes eat a heart. There's a few places where a missed jump / death puts you quite far away, which was annoying.

Overall, though, the map and encounters are very well designed. The items give a nice "immersive sim" approach to solving rooms with a variety of approaches: you probably aren't blocked, but you might need to try something new.
posted by Anonymous Function at 1:19 PM on May 26

I've started it up a few times afterwards to poke around the map to look for more secrets, but it doesn't feel super necessary.

So far I've found 3 post game items and have room for more. Obviously not required but I think the assesment that the credits roll halfway through a 64-eggs playthrough is correct.
posted by pwnguin at 4:19 PM on May 26

I love the pace of discovery and exploration here - so many metroidvanias (some people like the more generic term search-action game) feel like I am scouring the map for a single item, which then opens a single short path leading to the next frustrating hunt. Here I feel like every discovery opens up multiple lanes of exploration, and I'm often getting sidetracked (complementary) on the way to a planned destination. I'm at about 50 eggs, but I think I would need to dig into a guide to track down the rest of them, which I may or may not do at some point. Plays great on Steam Deck, FWIW.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:30 AM on May 29

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