I love the feeling of losing an afternoon or even an entire day to the simple bliss of a farming or life-simulation game. Games that trade the end-of-the-world and ghost-infested dungeons for house customising and crop cultivating offer the kind of zen, centring game experience that everyone could use now and then. Even these delightfully simple games, though, often keep your pulse racing just a bit with deadlines and micro-management. Whether you’re racing to get all of your activities done before sundown in Stardew Valley or panicking to buy turnips in Animal Crossing New Horizons before the clock strikes 12, there’s always some kind of aggressive time-crunch at the back of your mind in these otherwise tranquil games. Ooblets, however, has none of that.
Despite being a combination of the time-crunching farming genre and one of the most stressful and heated video games out there, Pokémon, every aspect of Ooblets is designed to give you activities to passionately dive into without any sort of stressful timers or frustrating limitations. When you first arrive in the tranquil town of the game, you need to pick one of four different Ooblet Clubs to join in order to get your first cuddly companion. You can obtain any of the other ones later, though, and you’re also free to interact with and become friends with the members of the other clubs.
Soon after, you’re given an abandoned shack and a weed-ridden farm to call home. Unrooting weeds, breaking rocks, gathering natural items, and cultivating harvests all take up energy. It also takes up time, which you might also want to spend talking to townsfolk, visiting stores, fishing, and more. Neither of these resources is in short supply, though. Most of my days in Ooblets saw me getting all of my expected tasks for the day done before the sun had even begun to set. I would find myself running out of energy more often than time, but a quick afternoon nap or two and a few chugs of some delicious beanjuice will get you running on full again in no time.
Beanjuice. Yes, beanjuice. See, the low-stakes and lack of pressure in Ooblets is nice, but the real charm of the game comes from the quirky, lackadaisical, and downright silly tone of the world. You’ll be collecting things like sporbets and sweetiebeeties for characters like Mayor Tinstle or Taffy, all while adorable little Ooblet critters named Shrumbo and Dumbirb follow your every move. The naming conventions and dialogue follow the same sort of wacky word vomit style that fuelled things like Adventure Time or Frog Detective, and that might not be for everyone. It’s absolutely for me, though, and it also works perfectly with the vivid, colorful and perfectly pastel aesthetic of the world.
When you aren’t watering crops and talking to townsfolk, you’ll be collecting and battling the titular Ooblets around town. It may sound against the carefree ethos of the rest of the game to be engaging in competitive battles with these soft little pals, but you actually aren’t. Rather than swiping claws or firing bubble beams at each other, Ooblets go head to head in loud, funky dance battles to settle their scores. These rhythmic competitions see you drawing a hand of card-based actions each turn, with the goal being for one team to reach a certain amount of points before the other.
Rather than inflicting direct damage, your cards have effects like stealing points, adding junk cards to the enemy hand, or building up Hype points that increase the effectiveness of your cards. Winning battles nets your Ooblets experience points, and also earns you a seed from the creature you just defeated that you can grow to plant your very own. Admittedly, these battles will tax very few of your brain cells. They’ll get you thinking, but never sweating. If you want a proper challenge, you’ll eventually be able to unlock a dance battle barn that holds tournaments and tough foes within.
The first 5-10 hours of Ooblets are solidly put together, with plenty of guided tasks from the mayor and open-ended customisation and collecting to engage in at your leisure. Only a few Early Access cracks show in the beginning, like a couple of locked gates at the edges of town or a particular recipe I found that had a template item description. As you get further into the game and eventually get to explore a new region, though, those cracks massively expand.
More placeholder dialogue and empty item text begin to crop up, and it becomes obvious that while Ooblets has a lot going for it already, it’s far from finished. There’s a lot of amazing potential here, and an adorably overwhelming amount of charm and personality. If you’re happy with getting your feet wet with a very work-in-progress package, then you’ll want to dive right in. If you’d prefer to play the game from beginning to end, though, you’ll need to wait until there’s a proper end to speak of.