Sole Indie Developer Hit Animal Well Is Being Proclaimed A Top Game Of 2024

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When video game satirist videogamedunkey announced that he was opening a game publishing house, most people were understandably skeptical. Was this another bit? Was he really calling his nascent publisher "BIGMODE"? What kind of games would he publish? It turns out that yes, BIGMODE was in fact for real, and its first game is a fantastic indie title called Animal Well.

If you're into puzzle-platformers like Ori and the Blind Forest, or "Metroidvania" titles at all, you might as well just stop reading this and go buy Animal Well now. Its 10% off "new game" sale runs until May 23rd, and while the title is quite short—your author finished a first playthrough in about three hours—it's worth every penny.

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Animal Well is absolutely beautiful in motion.

Animal Well has a visually-distinctive retro aesthetic that may not appeal to everyone, but if you're on the fence, go watch the video on the Steam store page. The game looks very different in motion in a way that screenshots don't really capture easily. There's a lot going on visually, from particle and lighting effects to surprisingly realistic reflections and constant background animation.

Likewise, the soundscape of the game is lush and rich with a mix of natural sounds (splashing water, flipping grass, and so on) and retro game sound effects. Considering that Animal Well was entirely developed by a single person, it's a fantastic achievement and well worth a play for fans of the genre. Do be advised that it leans heavily on the "puzzle" part of "puzzle platformer," though; there's little in the way of combat or progression here. If you enjoy games like Fez or Knytt Underground, you'll be right at home in Animal Well.

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There are some significant horror elements in parts of the game, too.

Bloomberg talked to the game's developer, who noted that Animal Well is absolutely overflowing with incredibly deep secrets. Bloomberg's Jason Schreier says he has put "dozens of hours" into finding them already, including collaborating with other game critics on the search. For his part, the developer Billy Basso says that he'd be happy if "a single person found one or two of them on their own," but that the game has secrets "so unreasonable" that he expects some will never be found.

Strictly speaking, this is BIGMODE's first release; the publisher is also working to have horrendously underrated Steam indie shooter Star of Providence brought to the Nintendo Switch. You might know that game already under its previous title, Monolith: After the End. If Animal Well's blend of atmospheric exploration and adventure-game puzzle-solving isn't your taste, check out Star of Providence instead. It could use the attention.