Trapped in a dream world based on his own paintings, Axel and his dog Pixel must travel across his stylized landscapes and solve puzzles to get back to reality. The single-player campaign runs for 24 levels across four different seasons. The game uses a combination of hand-drawn art and retouched photographs to render its worlds, and Axel communicated entirely through expressive actions and a gibberish language.
The player does not directly control Axel, but instead guides a magic cursor around the screen to interact with various highlighted objects. Objects range from the next part of the puzzle, to collectables like dog bones for Pixel or vistas for Axel to sketch. Quick Time Events also trigger for action scenes and require accuracy for Axel to be successful. Axel cannot die or get stuck and the player can use up to three hints per stage to show their next objective.
Minigames based on vehicle-driving levels in the main game are unlocked by progressing through the single-player campaign. These vehicle games (driving, boating, and hot-air ballooning) score the player based on their skill and reward achievements for high scores.