One thing to know about PAX demo stations is that these games are (usually) all running on some sort of PC configuration. What stood out to me when approaching the Animal Well booth at PAX West, then, was that it ran on PS5 consoles only.
The choice of PS5 was very much a deliberate choice, as I came to find out. Developed by Billy Basso -- studio name Shared Memory -- and published by Dunkey's new company Bigmode, Animal Well surpasses expectations.
Animal Well Takes Advantage of the DualSense
Though Animal Well is launching on other consoles such as the Switch and PC, you absolutely should use a DuelSense controller to play it if you can. The way it uses the haptic tech in that controller blew me away.
The DuelSense's effect is actually quite subtle, but that's the genius of it. Moving my blob creature through grass in these sidescrolling environments added a brushing, vibrating effect to actually feel as though it was me, not the blob, moving through grass.
Moving outside of grass on smoother terrain means you'll feel no vibration on the controller, so it's just cool to see that attention to detail. Jumping has a little thud to it on the controller as well. I really can't wait to see what other ways the controller can be used.
Talking with developer Billy Basso, I learned that you can also plug the DuelSense into your PC and experience the same haptics. That said, the controller doesn't make or break Animal Well. It just adds a bit more to create something really special.
Animal Well is a Gorgeous Game
Another interesting note we learned from Basso is that his work on Animal Well is a bit of a departure from his past games. For years he worked on the gory, violent Mortal Kombat series. It's safe to say Animal Well is a contrast to that.
There's a retro feel to Animal Well with its pixel visuals, but environments are wonderfully detailed and spritework on various animals and background scenery is simply divine. There's a cool retro filter slapped on the game that adds a cool vibe to it all.
"Vibe" is definitely a good word to describe this game. It's a bit gloomy and mysterious, this "well" you find yourself in. Animal Well relies heavily on dark blues and purples for its color scheme, which makes it feel weirdly immersive.
Other than that, though, I love the animals and other creatures in Animal Well. Expect to see a variety of fauna and interact with them in different ways.
My favorite example of the various animals is the dog I came across. I thought it would be a good boy, but being a round gelatinous blob made me a target for the hound. It grabbed me like a ball and wouldn't get off of me!
Animal Well PAX West 2023 Preview | Final Thoughts
I'm definitely excited to see more animals and how to handle the different situations that might arise when you confront them. Make no mistake, Basso worked on Mortal Kombat, but this is a non-violent game. Hopefully we can make friends with some animals as you explore the well.
I have an inkling Animal Well has a lot more to it than what it's shown so far. There's an aura of mystery that permeates throughout the demo, so who knows what's in store? I guess we'll find out sometime next year.
Animal Well was previewed at PAX West 2023.