Ooblets, an adorable farming / monster collection game, has launched into Early Access for PC and Game Preview for Xbox One. The cute and colorful game is chock-full of the kind of ideas that would propel it into indie darling territory. The visuals and vibrancy, the adorable little creatures you can collect à la Pokémon, the farming and life simulation elements à la Stardew Valley, and even a card-based battle system à la Slay the Spire. Ooblets really does have a lot of the right ideas for a modern indie gem. However this farming simulator still needs a bit of time to grow from a good idea seed into a blooming and satisfying experience.
Ooblets is a game that has been teased for quite some time now. It was also infamously the subject of controversy after announcing it will be an Epic Games Store exclusive. Releasing into Early Access in mid July, Ooblets sees the player character arriving at Badgetown in the land of Oob. The friendly little town greets you as you watch the happy townspeople and their adorable Ooblet critters mill about their daily lives. You join a club, are granted your first Ooblet, and are even given your own plot of land. Ooblets definitely relies on some tropes here, but for the most part it feels familiar and endearing. You’re farm is dilapidated and you’re tasked with cleaning it all up, you’re also asked to help out the town and given several different tasks. The townspeople do a good job of introducing you to their way of life and explaining the importance of Ooblets and all the different colloquialisms you’re likely to encounter.
Character creation is a little basic (for now) but the overall idea is solid. It feels very modern and forward-thinking with gender not really being a consideration, instead you just decide on your hair and clothes and are able to fill in the rest of the information for your own headcanon. The town is similarly a little basic for now but it’s clear there’s more to be done and explored the more time the game has to develop and the more time you put into the experience.
There’s a certain charm to Ooblets for sure, but it also leans very heavily into its cutesy stylings. Characters will wiggle their heads as they speak and make silly sounds and the Ooblets will dance about and make farting noises on occasion. The game also makes up its own words constantly with townspeople greeting you with a “Dailyo” or a “Howdo” rather than a hello. Fishing is called “Sea Dangling” and a computer is simply referred to as “Puter”. Once you get the “Printypress” back up and running, villagers will also start handing out “Friendship Stickers” as a show of their growing affection. I hate to sound like a bitter old coot but it honestly started becoming a bit exhausting. Like we get it, you’re cute.
Since Ooblets is a mixture of farming simulation and monster collection, your two main objectives is usually tending to your farm and battling Ooblets. Despite its obvious Pokémon influences, the system through which you battle and acquire Ooblets is actually very different. Once you have the resources you can challenge an Ooblet to a dance battle where you’ll draw cards from your deck and play them strategically in order to accumulate dance points. If you reach 20 points before your opponent, they’ll give you a seed which you can plant and grow your own version of that Ooblet.
The farming here is pretty standard with seeds being planted in a grid on your farm and needing to be watered daily. After a certain amount of days your seeds will grow into new Ooblets or other crops. You’ll also find yourself exploring Badgetown, gathering resources, and interacting with other villagers. You’ll have a resource metre that gets depleted through certain actions and you’ll also have to be aware of a day/night cycle and the reliance on other resources such as Gummies (a form of currency in the game).
Overall Ooblets feels like it has a lot of ideas, but it hasn’t yet found a satisfying formula. As a farming / life simulation game, it feels very lacking. There isn’t enough to do in any given day and you’ll often find yourself just going to bed early / napping to move yourself to the next day. A game like Stardew Valley has so much going on that you’re constantly battling against the time of any given day, whereas Ooblets had me wandering around aimlessly more often than I was laser focussed on a task. Even fishing, a fairly standard mechanic in these kind of games, was reduced to a very basic and resource-dependant side task that wasn’t very rewarding or time consuming. On the flipside, the monster collection mechanic wasn’t particularly satisfying either. The variety of Ooblets is nothing like the variety of Pokémon and battles are a strangely rare happening with the game gating battles behind the collection of certain resources. The dance battles themselves were fine, if a little simple and easy, but you never really got to feel the thrill of hunting down and capturing a rare critter.
Ultimately Ooblets is a game that just needs more time to mature. It’s unfortunate because I actually think it probably needs a lot of time to mature and I don’t know if the small development team has the resources to update the game to a satisfying point anywhere in the near future. The version of release we got doesn’t even really feel up to scratch for an Early Access title and that’s a little disappointing. However, with a solid idea supporting the foundation of this game, we can only see improvements from this point on.