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Animal Well Review | Who Wants To Sleep Peacefully, Anyway?

92
Story
8
Gameplay
8
Visuals
10
Audio
10
Value for Money
10
Price:
$ 25
Clear Time:
15 Hours
For a game that’s less than 34 megabytes in size, Animal Well delivers a terabyte’s worth of horror to its players. Its nightmarish landscape, eerie imagery, creepy music, and horrifying background noises create an absolutely terrifying product that’s only amplified by its use of retro graphics.


Animal Well is a horror metroidvania that features truly terrifying animal-themed scares in retro style. Read our review to see what it did well, what it didn't do well, and if it's worth buying.

Animal Well Review Overview

What is Animal Well?

Animal Well is a horror metroidvania with basically no story and barely any tutorials. The game simply throws you into a dark cave with horrific animals and scattered ruins without context and expects you to figure it out yourself. While that may seem outrageous, it actually helps increase tension, as the game's dreadfully terrifying visuals and audio have one less competitor for your attention.

Animal Well features:
 ⚫︎ A novel take on metroidvanias where you can’t fight back
 ⚫︎ Intense atmospheric horror
 ⚫︎ Stunningly eerie modern-retro graphics
 ⚫︎ Heart-pounding encounters with distinctly animal-shaped horrors
 ⚫︎ Nerve-wracking sound design

For more gameplay details, read everything we know about Animal Well's gameplay and story.

                                                  
Steam IconSteam Store$24.99
Steam IconPlayStation Store$24.99
Steam IconNintendo Store$24.99

Animal Well Pros & Cons

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ProsCons
Checkmark Great Use Of Unassuming Imagery
Checkmark Terrifying And Uncanny "Animals"
Checkmark Heart-Poundingly Horrific Audio
Checkmark Some Puzzles Break Immersion

Animal Well Overall Score - 92/100

For a game that’s less than 34 megabytes in size, Animal Well delivers a terabyte’s worth of horror to its players. Its nightmarish landscape, eerie imagery, creepy music, and horrifying background noises create an absolutely terrifying product that’s only amplified by its use of retro graphics. 

Animal Well Story - 8/10

There is no plot. Hell, there isn’t even any worldbuilding. However, there’s a lot of environmental storytelling, and it’s as creepy as they come. The fact that no words are ever spoken makes it even more terrifying, since the ambience leads you to imagine the wildest things to connect the dots. In a way, its silence tells more than words ever could.

Animal Well Gameplay - 8/10

The game’s description on Steam certainly wasn’t lying. Animal Well feels and plays like a metroidvania — only set in a zoo of horror where you (mostly) can’t fight back. This, in turn, makes the horror element that much stronger, as you can only run or hide from the horrific critters. However, some puzzle sections outright kill the mood with their excessively obscure solutions.

Animal Well Visuals - 10/10

If I could score this higher than a perfect 10, I would. Everything you see in this game tries to push you into making the worst assumption about your circumstances. For one, the level design is insanely unnerving, and the monsters themselves skirt the border between familiarity and monstrosity. Animal Well, being a game that uses retro-style graphics, only makes the horror even more terrifying. 

Animal Well Audio - 10/10

If there’s one thing that stands out above everything else in Animal Well, it’s how effectively it pulls off its nightmarish atmosphere. A lot of it can be attributed to its visuals, true. But a large part of it is thanks to its magnificently disconcerting audio as well. 

Animal Well Value for Money - 10/10

Despite checking in at an obscenely low price of 25 USD, Animal Well’s worth far exceeds that measly value. Even if it was double that price, the game’s quality would still justify the purchase. It’s an exceedingly rare and wonderful title that anybody who enjoys horror or metroidvanias will treasure.

Animal Well Review: Who Wants To Sleep Peacefully, Anyway?

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Before the review really starts, I would just like to make a disclaimer: I love horror. I consume almost anything related to them, from movies to games to novels and such. Hence, I’m used to dealing with whatever various media throws my way.

But I still screamed in fright more than once as I played this game. In fact, I felt my blood pressure spike during one of the more particularly chilling chase events in the game.

What makes a truly great horror game, anyway? An abundance of jumpscares? A cast of expressive protagonists? Well-executed vibes? Scary terrors? All of them, really. But as for Animal Well, it only really focused on the latter two. And it does so to outstanding effect.

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Everything in Animal Well screams "I don’t want to be here a second longer." It’s kind of like being forced to spend time with your spoiled, clingy, and persistently annoying nieces; you really just want to get far, far away from them.

As a horror game, that’s actually an excellent desire to evoke. It’s the natural desire born from our need for self-preservation. Hence, the horrors in Animal Well feel more instinctive and primal, as if it was ingrained into us as human beings.

How it achieves this is fascinating by itself. As mentioned earlier, Animal Well focuses almost entirely on vibes and scary monsters. There are no jumpscares at all, and the existence of a protagonist is questionable at best when you control a completely silent blob with eyes.

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Animal Well's visuals are a thing of wonder. The level design is replete with innocuous details that, individually, don't mean much. However, when put together, they create some of the creepiest areas I've ever seen in video games.

It's only possible because its visuals are heavily supported by three details: the audio, the story design, and the choice of graphics.

The game's sound design, as you might have guessed, fits perfectly for its horror genre. However, the developers have incorporated tiny details into the ambience that's impossible to not mention. One of those is the seemingly random, unearthly cries from animals that can easily catch you off-guard. There's also a low humming noise that increase in intensity during big encounters. These serve to maintain the appropriate tension on your nerves as you play, even during supposedly safe stretches.

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Its narrative and choice for graphics are also worthy of immense praise. That is, the complete lack of one, and its usage of a retro style visuals. These are excellent choices for this kind of game, as they barely provide you with any information. This forces you to fill in the blanks yourself with a mindset that's already influenced by the game's dreadful ambiance.

Animal Well is overall a truly excellent horror game; one that will surely grind your nerves to dust using things that would barely count as scary if viewed in a vacuum.

Pros of Animal Well

Things Animal Well Got Right
Checkmark Great Use Of Unassuming Imagery
Checkmark Terrifying And Uncanny "Animals"
Checkmark Heart-Poundingly Horrific Audio

Great Use Of Unassuming Imagery

It is important to consider aesthetics when designing a level. Since humans depend highly on their eyesight, it’s also the best sense to exploit if you want to manipulate their mood. For example, if you want to make them feel uncomfortable, then you can use creepy images on eye-catching objects. Even better, do so constantly, but not so much that it becomes tiresome.

The environment in Animal Well is a combination of natural cave formations, sparse greenery, cold structures, old machinery, and the occasional animal, real or otherwise. There are even certain objects in the game that trigger Pareidolia (our tendency to see faces in objects) in people.

All of these contribute to the game’s exceptionally eerie atmosphere, despite the fact that, individually, none of those things are strange to encounter to begin with.

Well, the very dim lighting certainly helps.

Terrifying And Uncanny "Animals"

Before playing this game, I had the absolute confidence of claiming that I’ve never once been spooked by birds, virtual or otherwise. However, that all changed when I encountered the ones in Animal Well. I mean, look at them! Their eyes are hollow!

And they’re not even the worst ones. There were ostrich-like creatures whose necks could twist along tunnels like it was a snake, dogs that could practically do the same, severed fish heads that served as pipe entrances, kangaroos that jumped like they were connected to strings — the list goes on.

While most of the animals you’ll encounter do act the part, that just makes the encounters with those that don’t much worse. This is especially true if it’s your first time encountering them. Without knowing their behavior, formulating a response is nearly impossible. And that just adds suspense on top of the horror.

Heart-Poundingly Horrific Audio

Animal Well’s pièce de résistance is, undoubtedly, its audio. Not only does it play the role of supporting its terrifying and uncanny visuals, but it also serves to make the entire experience more cohesive. For example, the transition from an uncomfortable stroll through the Madagascar of Horror to a full-blown encounter with a big baddie feels more natural with its backing.

Not only that, the sounds used are downright frightful themselves. Just listening to them can make your skin crawl and your diapers full.

The game also has this habit of playing loud, barely animalistic cries during supposedly safe strolls through the definitely-not-safe chambers. Oftentimes, that’s enough to make you stop whatever it is you’re doing in anticipation of another scare. The vast majority of the time, nothing will happen. However, very rarely, something does — by that time, you would have likely stopped expecting anything already. And that just makes the scare even more potent.

Cons of Animal Well

Things That Animal Well Can Improve
Checkmark Some Puzzles Break Immersion

Some Puzzles Break Immersion

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Considering the game’s almost utter lack of combat (unless you count running away as fighting), there must be something to replace it to serve as a means of interacting with the game in a more meaningful way. Otherwise, the game will just be a walking simulator. For a metroidvania, that’s less than ideal.

Animal Well’s lack of combat was compensated with far more puzzles than you would otherwise encounter from other games in the same genre. And by "far more," I mean there’s a puzzle at practically every other chamber you enter.

While that is all fine in theory — after all, it’s better than spending several minutes just jumping around — the problem is the design in some of these puzzles. Some of them are unnecessarily complex or time-consuming. And that’s bad because it takes the player’s focus and immersion away from what’s around them, making them lose momentum.

Is Animal Well Worth It?

It’s Worth It And Then Some

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Anybody even vaguely interested in horror shouldn’t hesitate to purchase Animal Well. It’s an excellent title that showcases what the developers could do with the theme. It’s terrifying, it’s fun, and it’s also everything in between. On top of that, it’s just 34 megabytes!

Learn about what others have had to say about Animal Well in our review round-up linked below!

                                                                  
PlatformPrice
Steam IconSteam Store$24.99
Steam IconPlayStation Store$24.99
Steam IconNintendo Store$24.99

Animal Well FAQ 

Question 1: Are there other characters to use in Animal Well?

No, the game can only be experienced through its small protagonist.

Question 2: Does Animal Well have multiplayer?

Animal Well does not have multiplayer.

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Animal Well Product Information

                                                                                                                                                          
Animal Well Cover
TitleANIMAL WELL
Release DateMay 9, 2024
DeveloperBilly Basso
PublisherBigmode
Supported PlatformsPC, PS5, Nintendo Switch
GenreMetroidvania, Action, Horror, Puzzle
Number of Players1
PEGI Rating7 (Fear, Mild Violence)
Official WebsiteAnimal Well Website

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