Animal Well tells you almost nothing. This retro-styled puzzle platformer is bursting with layers and layers of secrets, and it leaves you to pick it all apart in some of the most purely explorative gameplay we've experienced in a while.

After emerging from a flower, you play as a small blob, able only to run and jump. You're given no knowledge of where you are or why you're there — you must simply navigate the vast, intricate map and discover all its dark, twisty corners. Inhabiting this eerie realm are various animals, some of which are timid while others will attack you, and there's no way of telling.

The whole game is designed around feeding your curiosity. You'll often get new items, which allow you to solve puzzles and explore even further, Metroidvania style — but some of these tools have hidden uses you must discover yourself. Even once you've seen the credits, the game keeps rolling out new ways to interact with the world, encouraging you to explore every part of the map over and over again looking for devilishly well-hidden secrets. Eventually you'll become familiar with the map's layout, but for a while it can be easy to feel lost if you're trying to get somewhere specific.

Much of the appeal of Animal Well is in its seemingly endless supply of surprises, with the gameplay mostly just in service of that. The platforming is responsive and feels good, but there are some very unforgiving segments and potentially frustrating timed sequences. Using all your tools, like the flying disc or the yo-yo, is kept very simple too, though again it's how the game asks you to use them sometimes that can make it deceptively challenging.

As you meander through the non-linear world, it's hard not to be won over by the art style. Much like the gameplay, the visuals are similarly minimal, but the pixel art is fantastic and looks great with the default scan line filter (though this can be turned off). Combined with the atmospheric sound design and some pretty solid DualSense haptic feedback, it's very well presented.

Animal Well is an extremely rewarding game — if you're willing to lose yourself in it. The sort of mysteries it's hiding go well beyond finding collectibles, giving you a rich and detailed world to unpack. If you have the patience and the curiosity, it's absolutely worth plumbing its depths.