Animal Well — well, well, well, look who’s back again

Having completed Animal Well, I felt like I had seen most of what the game had to offer. There’s a clear progression, some interesting puzzles, and I had gotten all the items. So all is well, right?

Not entirely. As I fell back into a more casual play habit for the game, just nosing around and picking up the remaining eggs, things got a bit strange.

There is of course the elephant cat in the room. Getting the M.Disc was one thing, moving its replacement all the way to the end of the Wolf quarter was one of those moments which made me subtly doubt myself. “This seems possible, but it’s also incredibly involved, is this actually what the designer wants me to do?” It proved to be a correct guess (as you may have experienced yourself by now), but next to the doubt it also subtly blew off the lid on how far puzzles and challenges would go.

The flute is another revelation. You can use it to simple wake up some animals and the Super Mario Bros. 2 referencing warp gates, but chances are you’ll then learn a certain melody to go with those warp gates. Could that be the only melody? Hell, that you can input notes at all is curious at the least. How you learn that melody is another vector that makes you go “oh dear”.

Searching all around for those eggs then, kept blowing my mind over and over again. I found more items. Each one altering how I perceived the game world and demanding another tour of the map. I’ve now invested more time in the post-game as compared to just getting to the credits. And what do I have to show for it? The scribblings of a mad man that made me recall my Riven-notebook back in the day. That was filled with ideas on how numbers and letters worked, and here I am doing the same with numbers, faces, and eggs. Mad indeed, but it’s because of the previously bizarre M.Disc-run that it no longer feels like wild goose chase. No, this might actually mean something.

And all of that culminated in finding out that I might just need one more egg at the end of it all. I can kind of feel what Animal Well is going for narratively, but to be honest, it doesn’t matter that much. I’m having way too much fun clicking all these puzzle pieces together and yes, it’ll take something truly special to bump this out of the 2024 GOTY slot for me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to jump down once more.