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I Disliked Animal Well Until I Finished It

My Journey with Animal Well

As a long-time enthusiast of videogames, particularly those in the indie genre, I initially approached the game Animal Well with a mixture of excitement and skepticism. Animal Well, a cryptic and atmospherically dense offering from the indie community, presents an enigmatic journey through an eerie, creature-filled labyrinth that drew me in at first glance. Here, I recount how my initial misgivings transformed into admiration as I progressed through the game’s intricately layered depths.

Initial Impressions

Upon my first encounter with Animal Well, it wasn’t the concept that failed to win me over but rather its execution. Starting out in the game felt like plunging into a dark maze without a flashlight. As intended by the design, the initial lack of direction and clarity was disorienting. The game’s highly praised pixel art and sound design, although impressive, couldn’t immediately compensate for the confusion and sense of aimlessness I experienced. Without any guiding narrative or clear objectives, my initial hours in the game were marred by frustration and a sense of futility.

Challenges and Frustration

The game’s difficulty curve is steep. Early puzzles seemed inscrutable, and the game does little by way of direct assistance. Solving them felt rewarding at times but often slipped into feelings of irritation as I wandered through similar-looking corridors filled with perilous traps and cryptic symbols. The elusiveness of progress combined with the minimalistic hints made me question my engagement with the game, nearly causing me to abandon it altogether. Moreover, the sheer novelty of its mechanics, while innovative, initially seemed more alienating than intriguing.

The Turning Point

Despite these challenges, the unique atmosphere of the game slowly started casting its spell on me. I pushed past the initial repulsion and gradually began uncovering the layers of mechanics that define Animal Well. Subtle environmental cues began making sense, guiding me through the underground landscapes and revealing hidden pathways. Each small victory or discovery felt immensely satisfying.

The real turning point occurred when I began to appreciate the game’s intention to not spoon-feed its audience. The realization that my real ‘opponent’ was the environment itself—the puzzles, the hidden doors, the elusive creatures lurking within—added a thrilling dimension to my gaming experience. I started enjoying the process of learning through trial, error, and exploration.

Gradual Appreciation

As I delved deeper into the game, I found myself more immersed in its subtleties. The minimalist story, revealed through sparse visuals and cryptic interactions, grew on me. I came to appreciate how it fueled the portrayal of a mysterious untold tale. Moreover, I realized how the seemingly unforgiving design encouraged a deep level of engagement that is rare in more linear and narratively directed games.

Revisiting earlier areas of the game with newly gained abilities or insights revealed a multi-layered world that was hiding in plain sight. This element of backtracking, which initially seemed like a tedious requirement, enriched the narrative experience, bringing a sense of achievement and history to my interactions within the game world.

The Conclusion of My Journey

By the time I reached the conclusion of Animal Well, my perspective had shifted completely. What began as an exercise in frustration ended in a gratifying journey of discovery and personal triumph. I had not only finished a game but had experienced a transformation in my approach to gaming itself. The initially opaque and isolated snippets of the game’s world now formed a coherent, hauntingly beautiful universe that lingered in my thoughts long after the final credits rolled.

Final Thoughts

Animal Well is not a game for everyone, and it’s certainly not a game that reveals its depths at a cursory glance. However, for those willing to embrace its challenges and inherent obscurity, it offers profound rewards. Through perseverance and a transformative appreciation of its intricate design, I found a remarkable and memorable experience that expanded my perceptions of what video games can be. This journey from skepticism to admiration perhaps underscores the unique power of interactive media to challenge and enrich our experiences, making us participants in unfolding stories rather like passive observers.


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