After announcing the establishment of an indie publishing label, BigMode (opens in new tab), last September, long-time videogame YouTuber Dunkey revealed the endeavor's first game at the beginning of his Best of 2022 (opens in new tab) video. BigMode will be publishing developer Shared Memory's upcoming platformer, Animal Well.
Animal Well (opens in new tab) debuted at this past E3's Day of the Devs indie event, and is a pixel art platformer where you play as a cute little brown blob person—I immediately thought "Kirby by way of that brown fluff ball dude from Yu-Gi-Oh! (opens in new tab)" Animal Well is set in a "dense, interconnected labyrinth," and features Metroidvania-style exploration of this underground world. It currently has no set release date, but you can wishlist Animal Well on Steam (opens in new tab).
Animal Well has an arresting art style that really stands out to me, even in a crowded field of pixel art platformers. It has these very dark backgrounds with contrasting bright characters and environmental details, in a way that almost resembles glow-in-the-dark paint at a rave. In addition to natural caves, Animal Well also boasts eerie ruins that I find reminiscent of the Sonic 2 Aquatic Ruin Zone (opens in new tab) or even Elden Ring's underground portions. Developer Billy Basso also stresses that the game will feature layers of discovery and puzzle solving, with a final suite of collaborative challenges that sound like Destiny's infamous ARGs or Batman: Arkham Asylum's Arkham City teaser (opens in new tab) that managed to remain hidden for years.
I'm intrigued at the strategic choice to introduce Animal Well at the beginning of a larger video, but it also makes sense given the reliably heightened audience for a GOTY roundup, and I suspect there's more content highlighting Animal Well from Dunkey on the way. For now though, I'm already excited for another indie that really just wasn't on my radar before.
2023 was a big year for Dunkey—in addition to announcing BigMode, the YouTuber also took first place (opens in new tab) in the Milwaukee Record's Wisconsin-Born Celebrity Bracket (opens in new tab). Dunkey trounced Little House on the Prairie creator Laura Ingalls-Wilder in the first round before going on to dominate the likes of Orson Wells, Les Paul, and Gene Wilder. It's always nice to see Midwestern excellence rewarded.