The surprise PS5 hit of the year is free for PlayStation Plus subscribers — and you can play it now

PlayStation Plus Collection feature
(Image credit: PlayStation)

A couple of weeks ago, most PlayStation Plus subscribers probably hadn’t heard of Animal Well. But a lot can change in a matter of days, as suddenly this indie puzzler is the talk of the gaming world, and it’s already available to play via Sony’s premium subscription service. 

PlayStation Plus members at either the Extra or Premium tier can download Animal Well from the PlayStation Store at no extra cost. The game launched on PS5, Nintendo Switch and PC on Thursday, May 9, and is now featured in the PlayStation Plus library after dropping on the service from day one. 

Developed by Shared Memory, a studio comprised of a single developer named Billy Basso, Animal Well is an indie title that falls within the “Metroidvania” genre. This essentially means that exploration is a key pillar, and many parts of the world are closed off at first, requiring you to return later with a new item or ability to progress further. 

In Animal Well, you explore an interconnected labyrinth bursting with secrets to uncover and puzzles to unlock. You’ll have to collect items to engage with your surroundings in unexpected ways, and across your journey deeper into the well, you’ll encounter various creatures, some friendly and some hostile. But there’s more to this place than meets the eye, and unravelling the biggest mysteries is your goal. 

Its pixelated look is fairly striking, and the game has also received early praise for its impressive lighting and score, both of which set an ominous and mysterious mood. Overall, Animal Well is an incredibly atmospheric game that constantly surprises.

Animal Well reviews are seriously strong

While Animal Well wasn’t on many “most anticipated games of 2024” lists just a few months back, it looks a safe bet to be included in many “best of the year” roundups when we’re looking back at 2024. That’s because Animal Well has enjoyed near-universal critical acclaim. It’s one of the highest-rated PS5 games of the year according to Metacritic

Eurogamer gave the game a rare perfect score, calling it an “astonishingly rich Metroidvania” and Destructoid was similarly impressed, saying “Animal Well is packed with more things to do and secrets to find than most other games.” IGN labeled the game “a beautiful, multi-layered puzzle box that's both fun to simply play around with, and an utter delight to slowly crack open”. 

Another very positive review came from our sister site, GamesRadar, who gave it a glowing write-up and said, “Animal Well is stubbornly traditional in keeping you in the dark as you embark on your adventure, but that's firmly to its credit as you unravel the mysteries sprinkled around its map. This is an endlessly inventive Metroidvania with unfathomable depth.”

Early player impressions are similarly strong, with Metacritic listing a “generally favorable” user score of 8.1 at the time of writing. So it’s clear that Animal Well isn’t only appealing to critics. Players are also loving this haunting puzzle-platformer.  

If you have a PlayStation Plus subscription, you should play ASAP and don’t be surprised if this indie gem picks up some GOTY awards when the the time comes. 

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Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.