Charming Farming and Cute Creatures
Players looking for a farming simulator have plenty of choices to choose from these days. There's always the indie darling Stardew Valley, but there's also the classic Story of Seasons games as well as Natsume's Harvest Moon, which is a different beast from the Harvest Moon games from the pre-2010s. One of the newest competitors in this field is Ooblets. After several years of development, which included weathering a brief storm of hate when the game became an Epic Games Store exclusive, the cutesy-looking farming simulator has finally launched its first release build into Early Access. Even in its early state, Ooblets offers a charming farming experience that's sure to get some smiles out of its players.
Ooblets puts players in the role of a new immigrant to the mainland of planet Oob. Having lived your life on the stuck-up Ooblet-banning Ahroh Island, you're tired of your entire life being, as the game puts it, a "giant toot," and move to the mainland town of Badgeville. From there, you go through the classic farming sim story beats of meeting the mayor and getting yourself a run-down farm that you'll fix up and turn into a thriving enterprise. The big difference in this game, however, is that the world is inhabited by the titular basketball-sized creatures that play a big part in everyone's day-to-day life.
As you might expect from the genre, Ooblets has you managing a run-down farm where you grow various types of crops and explore the surrounding areas. However, you'll only be able to go to Badgetown until you help out Mayor Tinstle with some tasks, which serve as the main missions you'll perform to unlock more of the game's features. The big draw of this game, however, is the titular creatures. You start off with one depending on the club you choose to be a part of and can get more by growing seeds you earn from winning dance battles. Eventually, you can get a team of up to six ooblets following you around (adorably referred to as your 'followbabies') while extras hang out at any oobcoops you've built at your farm, where they can operate certain devices or even help with the farming if you've upgraded their oobcoop.
One of the big things to get out of the way is that this game goes all-in on its cute aesthetic. The world of Ooblets has an art style that's extremely soft and inviting, with even the game's choice of wording getting in on the charming action. Fishing is called 'sea-dangling,' you can grow crops like caroots by watering them with a dribbly can, and the townsfolk often have bits of dialogue that sound like they came straight from a bizarre tweet. The ooblets themselves also have some very cute designs, often based around plants and animals. Some of the cuter designs include the perpetually grumpy-looking Clickyclaws, the pants-wearing Pantsabear, and Legsy, a dopey-looking fish with legs.
As well as being a farming sim, Ooblets is also a game with card battling mechanics. Players can have their ooblets take on other groups of ooblets in dance battles where the two teams compete to reach a certain point goal. There's a minor deck-building mechanic here where every team has a deck of generic cards plus unique cards that depend on the types of ooblets in the battle and their experience levels. Sidekey, one of the possible starter ooblets, starts out providing a card that lets you spend one beat (the equivalent of action points in dance battles) to make your team's next move trigger twice. Winning battles gets you ooblet seeds, which are key to expanding your roster of friends.
The dance battles overall work very well and are a cute way to incorporate battles into the game. However, they can often be on the easy side, especially since the battle AI may need a bit of tightening up. A good example of this comes from the mushroom-like ooblet Fleeble, who can get a move that reduces all further cards that turn to a maximum cost of one beat. It's a useful move, but the AI will often use this as the last move on their turn, wasting any benefit they could get out of it.
Being an Early Access game, Ooblets also has its share of bugs. Most of these bugs are minor ones, such as the rainfall texture being a bit too high on the beach, resulting in the rain hitting an area a few feet above the sand. However, there are a couple that can soft-lock the game. One of the easiest of these bugs to replicate happens when trying to enter an oobcoop multiple times by pressing the action key more than once. This results in the screen transitioning to a gray void, lacking the oobcoop interior and the menu options that would normally be there.
The world of Ooblets is a very charming one with plenty of potential. The game goes for an extremely powerful cute aesthetic that comes through in nearly part of the game. There's obviously a bit of behind-the-scenes polishing that needs to be done, but that's what Early Access builds are for: catching bugs and gathering player suggestions. Ooblets has been a long time coming, and it's certain to live up to the expectations of those who've been patiently waiting.
TechRaptor previewed Ooblets on PC with a copy provided by the developer/publisher. The game is also available on Xbox One.