Animal Well Is a Beautiful Metroidvania Safari With a Puzzling Twist
Friend or foe?
Imagine a Metroidvania where you solve puzzles to progress from room to room instead of fighting monsters. That’s Animal Well in a nutshell.
The indie platformer attracted attention after Dunkey, one of YouTube’s most memetic gamers, advertised it on his channel. It’s the first indie game that Bigmode, the publisher created by Dunkey and his wife Leah, committed to publishing. However, even without that plug, it speaks for itself with combat-free platforming gameplay and a vibrant world. Even gamers without much platforming experience will find a lot to love.
Animal Well is deceptively simple. You hop between platforms as a little blob, similar to the ghosts from Pac-Man, and travel through neon-lit settings with animal-inspired obstacles. Unlike Celeste, which lets you climb and grab right away, this game challenges you to master spacing and jumping before introducing other abilities.
It doesn’t focus on combat, where you need to worry about weapons and abilities to fight bosses. You also learn early on that your progression matters more on your problem-solving skills than your platforming abilities. It’s impossible to move onward to the different parts of the world without a love for puzzles. These headscratchers could be as easy as plopping onto a switch or discovering a passage that leads into another room with a solution. Thankfully, the controls work like a well-oiled machine for a game where your life depends on it.
Animal Well encourages players to experiment with the environment. Each of the rooms I visited also highlighted the key parts of the puzzle with lighting, which I appreciated as a platforming novice. I rammed my little blob head into every corner to see which crevices I could enter and which ones would send me straight to “game over.” I drop into the murky depths of one of the rooms, drown, and reappear on the ledge before. Rinse and repeat. When I learned how a room worked, the next step was trying not to splat head-first into an obstacle.
In addition to jumping an environmental puzzle-solving, Animal Well also features different objects and abilities that the player can use to solve puzzles. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to toy with any of the abilities already revealed in previous previews like bubble-blowing, frisbee-throwing, and the like. In just a few minutes, I was eaten by a menacing blue cloud with a face. When I attempted to circle around it, it quickly spread its body across the only exit and I restarted at the room’s entrance.
I have yet to experiment with many of the abilities Animal Well has to offer, but I played enough for the puzzles to stick inside my head. Now, all that’s left to do is play long enough to try them.
Animal Well is currently in development.