Animal Well Review - An Iceberg's Worth Of Puzzles Deep Below The Surface

Animal Well was one of my most anticipated games for it's emphasis on puzzles and secrets and not only did it meet, but blow past those expectations

Published: May 9, 2024 9:00 AM /

Reviewed By:

A screenshot of Animal Well showing off strange birds and the TR Review text over it

Since its announcement, Animal Well has been one of my most anticipated games. Detailed pixel graphics, platforming, and enough confidence in their puzzles to hide one in the announcement trailer. It was practically calling out to me as a fan of games like Fez and Tunic. Having played it, how well does it live up to the expectation?

Animal Well's Adventure Is In Exploration

Animal Well opens with a brief cutscene showing four vibrantly colored flames dispersing across the world and your small round character blooming (hatching?) from a flower. 

With no explanation of what the flames were, where or what you are, and what you should do, it's up to the player's intuition and drive to explore to propel them through the world.

A screen in the starting area of Animal Well showing a crank and a watery gap
Puzzles start out small with switches and cranks

The world of Animal Well isn't completely linear, nor is it a complete free-for-all. It's a Metroidvania but with far fewer hard roadblocks in your path. While you will need to obtain certain items to progress, the amount of map that is free to explore is massive from the get-go.

At first, it was daunting getting so lost in the world while not knowing what the "right" way to progress was. Finding that each direction led to at least one, if not two upgrades, while you're getting your bearings there's no way you can fail. Exploring deeper into the world is when you'll start seeing a few item choke points, especially as you get close to a flame. It was comforting to realize as I was making progress no matter where I went that there wasn't a wrong answer.

As more of the map is explored, you obtain items such as a Bubble Wand giving you a double jump, a disc that can be thrown to distract enemies, and a yoyo for extending your reach. A lot of these items you'll need to experiment with around the map for progress. For people who enjoy pushing a game's mechanics and exploration, they'll begin to see themselves rewarded.

Through collecting all of the items, specific paths will begin to reveal themselves leading you to each of the flames and subsequently reaching a credits screen. Reaching the credits of Animal Well is a bit like reaching the credits of Pokemon Crystal and never exploring the other section of the map or getting the credits in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night without unlocking the Inverted Castle. It's a credit sequence, but there's still so much to explore.

A platforming challenge in Animal Well set off by a slinky on a switch
Use items in creative ways to create chain reactions and reach new areas

Perfect Puzzles To Stretch Your Mind

One of the major draws to Animal Well is the puzzles. This isn't just the puzzles that are out in the open but also the ones that it keeps close to its chest. I was only a minute into the game when I managed to jump through a fake wall and open a treasure chest to obtain the first of sixty-four eggs in the game.

These eggs are barely the surface of puzzles present in Animal Well, as exploring the map will reveal all kinds of shortcuts, secret codes, additional items, and hidden murals. The simpler of these puzzles, like prizes in breakable walls, will be familiar to fans of most video game collectibles, but once you get deep enough in mystery you'll be pulling out a pad and pen to try to crack certain codes.

Frustration builds up as you know there's a secret in front of you to be decoded, and there's no better feeling than cracking the enigma and getting another piece of the larger puzzle.

A room with a fish decal in Animal Well
This room alone contains three different rewards but it will be a while until you reach the last one

Animal Well has had me scrutinizing absolutely everything I came across, even looking into the artwork in the background just to make sure I wasn't missing something. When I initially reached a credit screen, I was about ~10 hours into the game. While I write this review, I'm at 40 hours and still finding more puzzles dragging me further into the red twine.

It's hard to talk about how excited I've been playing Animal Well and the levels of success I've felt solving these puzzles while also revealing as little as possible about the game.

You Can Enjoy Animal Well At Any Depth

It's clear from the moment you start Animal Well that while plenty of thought and effort was given to the scope of the game and the puzzles inside, the core gameplay loop of being a little blob platforming around a unique and eerie world was very well designed and implemented. 

Platforming is tight and responsive. Whether you're trying to move quickly to avoid being attacked by a ghost or weighing up the distance between yourself and the next platform, your character always feels responsive. Any time I fell I knew it was that I had misjudged the gap and not that I didn't get enough speed or clipped off the edge.

A platforming gauntlet room in Animal Well showing raising platforms and spikes
Quick reactions are needed to make it through moving platforms, tight turns, and spike pits

For someone interested in playing a mechanically solid platformer with a collection of unique items and mechanics, you'll have fun exploring the world of Animal Well. If you decide that you don't want your journey to be over, the game will continue to invite you to keep playing, expanding your understanding of the world. If you want to dive completely into the mysteries of the game, you'll be rewarded for that too.

The Eerie Vibes of Animal Well

One aspect of Animal Well that I wasn't expecting, but that has been so expertly nailed, are the otherworldly vibes that the look and sound of the game give off. The world simultaneously gives vibes of being a location in ruins, while also fostering much life in terms of the local flora and fauna.

Running into any of the animals can be a jarring experience. Crows will sit passively cawing at you as if daring you to make a move, oversized chameleons sit studying you as you pass by, and dogs chase after you ready for something to snack on. 

A Kangaroo attacking the player character in Animal Well
The kangaroo moves quickly appearing from off-screen and aiming to take out the player

The most unsettling of the animals are the Kangaroo, showing up and letting off an almost human-like groan before attempting to stomp you, and the Ostrich who dives their head into tunnels seeking you out.

The chiptunes heard through your adventure will pair low drones with fluctuating high tones keeping you on edge. Some areas will leave you in pure silence with only the sound of rustling grass to keep you company.

Animal Well is a fan of putting sounds right at the edge of your range too. Echoing barks in the distance, running water, and strange chimes that can be heard through the Well.

The different regions of the map also give off wildly different, but unsettling vibes in their looks. Moving out of the initial spawning area you're met with overgrown ruins, and once you reach the central hub space, you're met with dead-eyed statues of a ghostly cat/dog and a seahorse.

Strange statues of dogs stretching in Animal Well
So many rooms lead to further questions about their purpose

You'll visit deep cave systems, gear-filled towers, luscious and dense forest spaces, and more as you explore each of Animal Well's screens.

Animal Well Review | Final Thoughts

I came into Animal Well with pretty high expectations of a platforming adventure filled to the brim with increasingly complex puzzles. Not only did the game meet those expectations, but it far exceeded them.

I had a lot of fun exploring the interesting world of Animal Well, completing the game, and scratching at the surface of the different hidden collectibles. At each turn, I'd answer one question while three more would crop up constantly pulling me back into the adventure.

This is going to be one of those games going forward that I'll recommend to anyone whether I think they'll like it for the base game, or if they're someone who also shares an inquisitive and puzzle-cracking spirit. I'd recommend anyone interested in this to find a group of friends to play and theorize with.

Animal Well was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the developer over the course of 50 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.

Review Summary

Animal Well is a game that promised platforming and puzzles and has managed to absolutely nail both in execution. Platforming fans will have an enjoyable time reaching the credits and will be content to set it down, while puzzle gamers will be enamored by the depth that Animal Well has been able to achieve. Solving puzzles like these will give you a level of satisfaction that other games just can't match! (Review Policy)


  • Responsive and challenging platforming
  • Iceberg worth of puzzles under the surface
  • Eerie Atmosphere and Sound Design


  • Can be tough to solve alone

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More Info About This Game
Learn More About Animal Well
Game Page Animal Well
Billy Basso
Release Date
May 9, 2024 (Calendar)
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