“Animalia” is a charming choice-based game about a group of animals who attempt to infiltrate human society to thwart its encroachment on their forest. The player controls a team of four animals in a human suit who attempt to pass themselves off as an ordinary human boy, though there are inevitably complications to their plan.
Gameplay: Over the course of the game, the animals go through a normal day of a human boy, culminating in a school report on the forest in which they secretly live. The major source of both plot and humor in the game is the animals’ only vague understanding of human society, full of objects, concepts, and behavior that are alien to them. It’s full of characters who have distinct, fully developed personalities, and scenes with them feel like interacting with human (and occasionally some forest animal) characters, rather than just clicking through a bunch of options in a dialogue tree. The protagonists themselves also have distinct personalities, and their interactions with the world and with each other on their mission are compelling to watch. It’s also notable that the player gets to choose the four animals from a larger slate, and the text does change accordingly. (I didn’t replay the entire game with a new set of four animals, but there was at least substantial variation even in the first few scenes I did play through.) 10/10.
Mechanics: Unlike most choice-based games, this one involves a significant amount of state and has a widely branching plot tree. Not only do the choices the player make generate different prose (as opposed to merely advancing the plot along to the next static page of text), but they matter to the story. The animals’ relationships to the humans they encounter vary significantly with the actions they choose to take, and the status of those relationships is reflected in the game’s text and easy to track directly with the interface. There are numerous plot paths to explore, including several sideplots, but even a single playthrough has a substantial scope to it. In fact, the game is a bit long to replay in full during the competition itself (at least, if you’re playing the entirety of the games in it), but this is the first one I plan on exploring in more detail once it’s over. 9/10.
Presentation: The text is strong and polished throughout, and it’s hard not to enjoy the antics of the characters. As far-fetched as its premise— four animals operating a human suit— is, the game finds a comfortable setting and avoids being too wacky or too sedate. Its sense of humor is also solid; I particularly enjoyed the scene with the classroom snake, who was less interested in helping the animal protagonists than having another animal for lunch, and the political jabs involving the bald eagle named Brezhnev. 9/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You’d like to play a well-written, polished game with lots of replay value. (That’s admittedly fairly general, but I think this game will be appealing to most people.)