Animal Well PC Review

In the first few hours of playing, it’s clear that Animal Well began as a labour of love that quickly grew into something big. You’re immediately immersed in a stunning pixelated world, one that redefines what pixel art can achieve, offering boundless exploration without any handholding. When BIGMODE announced their company, sceptics questioned whether they could deliver. Yet after just a few hours with Animal Well, it’s obvious why this game was their choice for a debut release. While Billy Basso hasn’t redefined the metroidvania genre, he’s certainly injected it with fresh energy, crafting an experience that’s different to anything like it.

Animal Well adheres to some familiar metroidvania principles, where you advance until you hit a dead end and then backtrack to find what you need to progress. But what sets this game apart is its lack of conventional combat; instead, you’re dodging enemies or cleverly using your tools to navigate the world. Throughout the game, you’ll collect various items that help you manipulate your environment and solve puzzles, encouraging you to use every ounce of creativity to uncover its secrets.


I won’t spoil the details of these items, as a large part of the fun is discovering them yourself and figuring out how they work. What I can say is that each new item introduces a fresh dynamic to the gameplay, opening up new pathways and possibilities. The beauty of Animal Well lies in its ability to turn seemingly simple tools into intricate problem-solving tools, allowing you to approach obstacles in novel ways. It’s a testament to the game’s depth and creativity, allowing players to discover unique solutions that keeps the gameplay fresh and engaging.

What truly draws me to Animal Well is its immersive atmosphere. Instead of relying on a complex soundtrack, the game lets the subtle, ambient sounds of the environment take center stage, enhancing the breathtaking pixel art visuals. The game runs on a custom engine built from scratch by Billy Basso, giving him the flexibility to create unique environmental concepts and design a sandbox that encourages free exploration.


While playing, I found myself in a couple of softlock situations when exploring and experimenting, but these issues were quickly resolved. Rather than being frustrating, I saw these moments as a positive aspect of the game. By allowing players to push boundaries and experiment with different approaches, Billy Basso shows a level of daring that’s not often seen in debut solo projects. You’d expect a new developer to stick to safe formulas, but here, the risks taken contribute to a sense of genuine adventure and discovery. This gutsy approach fosters a playful mindset, where trying every little thing could lead to hidden secrets and surprising solutions. It’s this kind of freedom that transforms each session into a delightful journey, full of discoveries.

Discussing Animal Well can be tricky because so much of the game revolves around secrets. Every room, every item, and every small detail seems to be a piece of a larger puzzle. This interconnectedness creates an atmosphere of mystery and discovery, making each area feel like it holds secrets. If you can gather a few friends to help solve these puzzles, the experience turns the gameplay into a collaborative treasure hunt. However, if you’re playing solo and don’t have a community to lean on, you might miss out on some of the deeper layers of the game. My advice is to resist the urge to Google solutions unless you’re truly stuck. Spoilers can easily rob you of that sense of satisfaction when you finally figure something out. Billy Basso has hinted that some puzzles won’t be solved for years, but he might be underestimating the combined power of the internet. So, if you find yourself hitting a wall, take a step back, try different approaches, and let your imagination run wild. The beauty of Animal Well is in the journey of exploration and experimentation. To be honest, I didn’t find the post-game secret hunting as engaging as others might. After uncovering a handful of secrets, the thrill of revisiting the game and meticulously combing through each room started to wane. I soon found myself less excited to keep searching, as the process felt more repetitive than rewarding.


Animal Well has a lot going for it, and overall, the developers seem to have delivered on their vision for the game. However, I did find some aspects that could have used a bit more depth, specifically, the puzzles in the main game. Most of them were relatively straightforward, offering little challenge beyond basic problem-solving. For a game that focuses so much on exploration and discovery, I expected a bit more complexity to the movement. Additionally, while there’s one fast-paced platforming section, the rest of the game doesn’t really incorporate the environment into your movement. For example, jumping from a platform that’s moving upwards doesn’t give you extra height. This feels like a missed opportunity to add more depth to the puzzle sections, potentially creating more platforming challenges. However, I can see how introducing these elements might have been complicated given the game’s variety of items.

Overall, Animal Well is a visually striking 2D metroidvania that immerses you in a pixelated world full of mysteries. As you explore this intricate “puzzle box world,” you’ll rely on a variety of items to navigate its passages and uncover hidden secrets. While the game definitely caters to completionists, there’s plenty here for all players to enjoy. The core gameplay is packed with puzzles, intriguing locations, and a sense of discovery that will keep you engaged. BIGMODE definitely found a great debut game and developer in Billy Basso, and I hope their relationship brings a fresh and innovative energy to the gaming scene once again.

8 out of 10