As Ooblets is currently in Early Access, this will not be a review. This is more of an informal preview/first impression of the game. Due to the nature of Early Access, things may change as the game is updated, so not everything here will be 100% when the game releases in full.
As a gamer, I tend to veer on the side of sadism more than anything else. The thrill of being brutally beaten into the ground by a game, left with only my tears and overwhelming sense of inadequacy to keep me company. It is an interesting path I have taken to say the least, but sometimes even I need a break from the onslaught of abuse I so desperately desire. This is where “feel good” games come into play.
Feel good games come in many forms, whether that be the endless, meaningless chores of Animal Crossing or the addictive farming of Stardew Valley. But they all have one thing in common, they give you that warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy, put a smile on your face and instil a sense of calm. They are good for the soul, and my soul needs this kind of virtual holiday every now and then, don’t judge.
Recently a new contender shimmied onto the scene in the form of Ooblets, a charming little title currently in Early Access for PC and Xbox One. An attempt to take elements from a bunch of genres and splice them together to make the perfect being – probably. As it is in Early Access, this won’t be a review as such, but I will be dropping my thoughts as we go along.
What Do You Do In ‘Ooblets’?
After realising your life was a great big toot, you decide you hop on a boat and relocate to a different part of the world with no money, housing arrangements, job prospects or even luggage. Not the brightest of moves, but luckily the Mayor Tinstle is there to help by providing you with a dilapidated house and the unevious task of resolving all of the towns numerous woes.
Your new accommodation, despite being less inviting than a tent, at least comes with a hefty plot of land. This land will be your livelihood and one of the pillars of Ooblets design. What I am trying to say is – you’re going to be farming. What made Ooblets plant tending stand out, was just how easy it was to do. Simply hold down a button to bring up a grid, select the tile you want to interact with, bish, bash, bosh you have you’re done. Oftentimes, especially in 3D games, precision farming can be a bit finicky but Ooblets has found a way to make this process a breeze.
No mortal being can farm indefinitely of course, as in the world of Ooblets, this continues to be the case. Every action you perform has an associated energy cost, and once you run out of energy you are buggered. This makes you think about what you want to do each day, or more importantly, what you can do on any given day. Watering your crops is a costly venture, so when it rains, you have free reign to do other things etc. As you progress you will be able to increase and replenish your energy on the fly, but at the beginning you can often find yourself running low if you over expand your farm. If you run out of energy you could always go for a nap, knocking the clock forward a few hours, which is a system that is very much welcome.
Is It All Farming?
When you are done farming, you can head into town and interact with the various townsfolk. This is where Ooblets charm really starts to show. Every character has their own unique personality and will gladly show their general disinterest into your existence whenever they have the opportunity (i’m looking at you Bazil!) Videon believes you are not human, and that he is an alien sent to examine the earth’s population, Taffy screams utter nonsense in your general direction and Rugnolia is a scientist at the local Lernery who drops little remarks concerning your long term survival. You are encouraged to go out everyday and talk to people to pick up tasks and build up friendships. It is quaint and due to the quality of the characters, surprisingly engaging.
The language in Ooblets is probably my favourite aspect, as nonsensical as that may be. Ooblets does not take itself seriously in any sense of the word, and is not afraid to revel in that fact. Everything has been named in an adorably quirky way. Fancy a spot of sea dangling? You know, where you dangle some string into the sea? How about drinking a nice hot cup of spressy, or munching on a Bunglebee Bun? It is all so charming in a way that brings a smile to your face…and we haven’t even talked about Ooblets yet!
What Is An Ooblet?
Ooblets are tiny creatures that inhabit the world of Ooblets. These could be iddy-biddy tree stumps (Lumpstumps), angry little floofy things (Clickyclaws), or sentient leeks (Wiggletips). These adorable little blighters can be raised and used to help around your farm, scanned at the Lernery to expand the world’s collective knowledge of Ooblets and forced to do battle against other Ooblets. When I say battle, I don’t mean forcing your lightning rat to thundershock a handicapped moustached fish. No, I mean Dance Battle. Literally.
In order to acquire new Ooblets (your first one is given to you) you must have the right materials to garner the interest of the Ooblet, and then have a dance off. If you win, the Ooblet poops out a seed and you can grow your very own Ooblet back on your farm. ‘Combat’ uses a turn based card/deck system. Each turn you have a number of ‘beats’ in which to perform various dance moves. Some moves increase your points (reach the required points total first to win), some hinder your opponent and others buff you. It is a simple system that is as adorably engaging as everything else in Ooblets. Things get spicy when you start throwing in multiple Ooblets and you have your Ooblet dance crew facing off against theirs. Each Ooblet comes with their own unique set of ability cards, so building the greatest dance crew around, can be quite the endeavour.
All Things Soft and Squishy
Charming language and adorable dance battles aside, the most striking aspect of Ooblets is probably its presentation. From the very first loading screen showing a chubby Ooblet doing a jolly little jig, to the floopy necked running animation to the eye meltingly colourful visuals, the game’s style shines bright. Characters have an almost paper-like complexion in a world that is full of vibrant colour. It is a joy to look at, and perfectly suits the ‘feel’ the game’s language is trying to push. This is all made better by the upbeat soundtrack that jingles and jangles in the background, not to mention the numerous dance battle soundtracks which are all catchy and distinct.
Early Access Issues
As this is an Early Access title, things are not perfect in the world of Ooblets, and a few niggling things do crop up. The most pressing issue I found whilst playing the Xbox One version was the frequent stutters and frame drops. These were mildly irritating at worst, but as the game is a slow paced farming title with turn based dance battles, it never actually impacted gameplay in any meaningful way. Other than that, after hours of play, I have failed to stumble upon any bugs, crashes or hitches. It is purely a performance quirk.
You would expect content to be lacking in a game that is not technically released yet, however Ooblets is jam packed with tasks to complete and things to do. After many, many hours of play, I am still finding things to do and I am very excited to see what new features they add in future updates.
Worth A Look?
Ooblets is absolutely worth a gander if you have any interest in laid back, heart warming, feel good games. If you can overlook the minor performance niggles, this is a wonderful little title that has more than enough content to keep you interested in its current state. If you aren’t one to indulge in Early Access titles, then absolutely keep an eye out for its full release!
Toast Seal Of Conditional Approval
If Ooblets sounds like a game you could get behind, but are not a huge fan of Early Access, then you should absolutely check out Stardew Valley if you haven’t already. If you want an even more laidback experience, then Animal Crossing might be your cup of tea.
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