Every Layer of Animal Well (And How To Solve It), Explained

Every Layer of Animal Well (And How To Solve It), Explained

Animal Well, Shared Memory’s excellent metroidvania, is a natural conversation starter, thanks in no small part to its “layers” of progression. The term at least partially stems from this list of tips from the game’s developer Billy Basso, in which Basso discloses that “Animal Well is designed with three different layers.” Layers that lay over one another, revealing themselves as you play and your perspective grows. Confused? We’ve got you.

What are Animal Well’s three layers?

Animal Well’s three layers refer to three specific goals that you can chase sequentially. The first layer of Animal Well is a straightforward journey that involves collecting the four Flames listed on your map and descending into a distinct final area, and played on its own will offer a very satisfying experience. The second layer involves continuing on, uncovering roughly 99% of the game’s map, hunting down collectibles and uncovering secret areas with new bosses, items, and more. The third layer of Animal Well is designed for hardcore puzzle solvers, featuring yet another set of collectibles that require exploiting the game’s mechanics and cross-referencing information with other players.

For trophy and achievement hunters, know that you only need to complete layer two to technically achieve 100% completion. Layer three is reserved for those who are determined to see everything in the game, and don’t mind looking up guides or community resources to help out. That said, can you figure out which layer you’re on in Animal Well? And moreover, why do some players refer to a “fourth layer” when Basso himself says there are only three? We’ll dive into those topics below.

How to complete layer one of Animal Well

Screenshot: Shaded Memory / Kotaku

As mentioned above, Animal Well’s first layer is its most straightforward. After progressing through the opening area and obtaining your map, you’ll see four flame icons hidden in each corner of the world. These correspond with four distinct biomes, each of which has a boss animal that you’ll have to deal with. Along the way, you’ll need to collect at least six items that will help you solve puzzles that block your path, and you may as well grab as many eggs as you can find. It’s standard metroidvania stuff, but just so much fun to play.

Once you collect the four flames, you can place them in the center of the map, where the statues of the four boss animals hang over you. This will unlock the “final” area of the game, which will lead you to a boss encounter that, once completed, will trigger a credits sequence. Congratulations! You finished the game?

Screenshot: Shaded Memory / Kotaku

Your reward for completing layer one: Animal Well doesn’t have endings in the traditional sense, but achieve this and you’ll find a few handy items that will help you progress through what emerges as the second layer of the game. This includes the F. Pack, which will let you hold a maximum of six Firecrackers instead of three. If you’ve successfully completed a speedrun, you can also collect a figurine at the clock in this last location to commemorate your achievement.

How to complete layer two of Animal Well

Screenshot: Shaded Memory / Kotaku

The overarching goal of Animal Well’s second layer is to collect all 64 secret eggs that are hidden around the game. However, you’ll need to complete a few “quests” first, since you’ll need a total of twelve different usable items to complete this task. If you’re stuck on layer two, make sure to complete the following objectives:

  1. Return to the egg room in the center of the map after collecting 8, 16, and 32 eggs to find new items essential for exploration.
  2. Find all nine Matches in the game and place them in the dark rooms where the ominous shadow creatures chase after you.
  3. Collect the three hidden medals and place them in the circular recesses to unlock all-new areas. Check out our detailed guide about this here.
  4. Free the five cats trapped in cages in the bottom-right corner of the map. (We’ll have a guide on this shortly as well.)

Following these steps, you should have the tools necessary to collect every egg in the game. You may need hints to collect some eggs, but this layer is otherwise solvable on your own. If you get stuck, visit the egg room near the center of the map and reference which shelves are still missing eggs. This will help you determine which eggs you specifically need to hunt down.

After collecting all 64 eggs, you’ll unlock an extra key item in the egg room. Take this item to a secret room in the “final” area in the game, and you’ll trigger a new final boss sequence that resembles how layer one ended. Congratulations! You finished the game again?

Screenshot: Shaded Memory / Kotaku

Your reward for completing layer two: You’ll see the credits roll once more and achieve what one might generously call the “true ending” of the game. You’ll find yet another clock hidden in this new area as well, which will reward you with yet another figurine if you’re speedrunning.

How to complete layer three of Animal Well

Screenshot: Shaded Memory / Kotaku

After completing layer two, you’ll see that your save file now has a bunny icon with a number next to it. So, as you may guess from this hint, the objective of layer three is to find 16 bunnies hiding behind predominantly esoteric puzzles. Whereas layers one and two were exploration based, layer three will involve decoding ciphers (which typically involve using the Animal Flute) and looking carefully at background details for clues. You’re bound to have noticed loads of these while playing earlier, but now’s the time to put on your detective hat.

You will get stuck in layer three of Animal Well without outside help, for two distinct reasons. Firstly, the puzzles here are tricky enough that you’ll want to trade tips and tricks with others to find every hidden bunny. Secondly, one bunny specifically requires assembling a puzzle that consists of 50 distinct pieces, and you’ll only see one of them on your file. In other words, unless you have at least 49 friends playing this game alongside you, you’re going to need to look up solutions here.

Fortunately, if you’re determined to solve layer three all on your own, you can click here to use a tool that will help you solve this 50-person puzzle on your own.

After collecting the 16 bunnies, a new puzzle will appear inside the house you found after completing layer one. By solving this, you’ll get a series of directions that you’ll need to follow by flying on the manticore in the ending area of layer two. This will take you to a secret island that houses a neat secret for your troubles. Congratulations! You very probably actually finished the game!

Screenshot: Shaded Memory / Kotaku

Your reward for completing layer three: Unlike the first two layers, the credits won’t roll again. Instead, you’ll find a giant bunny that will swallow you, though fortunately you can escape through its rear end (I swear I’m not making this up). For reasons that only make sense within the lore of Animal Well, doing this will enable your protagonist to fly by pressing the jump button in midair.

A cool reward for sure, but it does lack a bit of punch considering you have no more game to explore. Unless…

How to complete layer four of Animal Well

Screenshot: Shaded Memory / Kotaku

Even though Basso himself said there are only three layers of Animal Well, there exists yet another series of secrets that the community refers to as “layer four.”

Unlike the “canon” layers, there’s no explicit collectible hunting to be done here. Instead, Animal Well’s fourth layer consists of carrying out incredibly specific tasks across multiple playthroughs, that the game doesn’t necessarily hint at, to unlock a series of symbols (usually referred to as unicode or wingdings). These include tasks like speedrunning the game, letting a boss hit you several times on Groundhog Day, and circumventing the solution of a layer two puzzle.

By piecing these clues together, you can uncover another series of directions similar to the end of layer three, which unlocks yet another secret. To be clear, you don’t need to uncover all of these clues yourself. If you’re just interested in the reward, you can look up the answer online and follow the directions without any consequence.

Screenshot: Shaded Memory / Kotaku

Your reward for completing layer four: Completing this task will trigger a spoken message from developer Billy Basso, Shared Memory’s “business/marketing guy” Dan Adelman, and publisher BigMode’s Jason Gastrow (better known by his YouTube persona videogamedunkey). It’s a sweet little thank you message for making it this far, and apparently Gastrow has been stuck in the code of the game for 277 years.

Is there a fifth layer of Animal Well?

Screenshot: Shaded Memory / Kotaku

With the note that the fourth layer ends on, Animal Well most likely doesn’t have any major secrets beyond this point. In an AMA hosted on the Nintendo Switch subreddit, Basso has expressed amazement over how fast Animal Well’s community solved all the previous mysteries. Given how meticulously the game has been unpacked, we’d most likely have clues pointing towards any deeper puzzles at this point.

That said, there are other oddities in the game that could point to deeper secrets. For example, there’s an infamous room with a fox and snails that houses an item called the “Cheater’s Ring.” Basso most likely included this room for…well, cheaters (layer three similarly featured “fake” bunnies in the game’s code to trick dataminers). However, when asked if there was a way to get this item legitimately, Basso responded “no comment.”

Additionally, there is the website haseverythinginanimalwellbeenfoundyet.com, with which Shared Memory’s Dan Adelman appears to be involved. As of writing, the website simply reads “no,” once again pointing to the existence of secrets the community hasn’t uncovered yet.

All that said, it seems like any lingering mysteries in Animal Well would consist of smaller easter eggs and not a wholesale “fifth layer.” However, Animal Well has surprised its community time and time again, so I wouldn’t write off any possibilities just yet. I just hope we find a legitimate way to see that fox in that room.

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