Let’s be honest, the world is kind of on fire right now. Like many, I’ve turned to video games to hide away in and when it comes to simulators like Animal Crossing, I’ve also used them to fight off anxiety attacks. Truthfully, Ooblets, a life simulator game with elements of deck-building from Glumberland couldn’t have come at a better time. Developed by a small two-person indie studio, Ooblets beautifully blends elements of Stardew Valley, Pokemon, and Slay the Spire. And, it does this with a vibrant pastel palette, adorable pets called ooblets, and a soundtrack that will lull even the most distracted among us.
To put in the simplest of terms, Ooblets is a game where you farm, collect creatures, build a life in your town, and have dance-offs. After the game downloaded and I booted it up I was greeted with an apt description of 2020, “life is toot.” It’s a small detail, but in Ooblets your character is fleeing a mundane life on a different island and looking for happiness. When you land at your new town, you’re instructed to talk to villagers, and follow the small quests to join an ooblet club. In order to get your very first ooblet, you have to pick them by choosing which club you would like to join. With vastly different creature designs, the choice is hard, but beyond they cute exteriors that aren’t benefits to choosing one over another. After receiving your first tiny and adorable ooblet child, you’re given a home. Now, that home is a rundown shack, but as the quest giver explains, what do you expect? It was free.
From there, you begin gathering materials, learning how to farm, and exploring the town and its shops. The farming in Ooblets is simple. Select your tool, hold the gaming view, and use a grid overlay which you control with your thumbstick to choose the patch of land you would like to till. Once its tilled you can plant crops and, more importantly, you can plant the seeds you receive from beating ooblets in dance-battles to grow more precious babies to add to your team. Now, one of the most frustrating parts of simulator games that call for you to gather and farm resources is how quickly these fun activities can become daily chores. This comes from the formulaic nature of the games. Plant things, gather things, sell things, buy things, rinse, and repeat. While this isn’t a bad thing, the way that this game type executes this formula dictates its longevity. Ooblets, for the most part, breaks this formula.
The game does this by integrating dance battles between ooblets that use the mechanics of a deck-building game. Additionally, in order to challenge other creatures that you see, you have to first have the necessary materials. The dance-battles and tournaments allow you to not only engage in a different mechanic but it adds importance to gathering beyond building, crafting, or completing quests. Now, these dance-battles, while increasing in difficulty based on the number of ooblets on your team, never hit an extremely challenging level. While I am a gamer who enjoys being pushed with puzzles and strategies, this lower difficulty isn’t a problem at all. In fact, watching your ooblets dance to adorable music is one of the most relaxing elements of the game and breaks up the monotony of running around to collect wood or other materials.
Now, the longevity of this game truly lies in the daily challenges and badge system as you help the Mayor save the town from questionable forces, and unlock the secrets of Oob. While cleaning out your front yard and collecting resources is fun, doing so with a purpose maintains a level of immersion that keeps the acts from feeling like responsibilities, allowing them to be quests. Additionally, as you progress through the game the importance of wishes, one of the currencies in the game you can exchange for goods, and gummies, another currency exchanged in the Oob’s shops for goods like clothes, furniture, or hairstyle updates becomes more important.
While the character creation is simplistic, and the hyper-stylized color palette doesn’t allow for a realistic or wide array of darker skin tones, you can custimze your character with different clothes and accessories bought in the shop in town. On top of that, you can also upgrade your home and decorate it to fit your personality. What begins as a dinky shack can grow into a stately farmhouse. Add this in with the farming you can do on the outside, and while you aren’t in total control of the world of Ooblets there is enough to keep you busy looking to make your new island home uniquely yours.
Truthfully, Ooblets works extremely well as a simulator because it has the best parts of the game-type with just enough difference to make it stand apart from the ever-popular Animal Crossing: New Horizons. There is more than enough to keep you engaged and the day/night system pushes against the rigid real-time timegates in other simulators. While some ooblets may take three days to grow, it’s not 72-hours. Instead, it’s the game’s internal system that passes by fairly quickly and also offers up a sleeping mechanic to allow you to essentially move to the next day when the evening hits. Timegates have long a pet peeve of mine in the game-type, especially those that are reliant on real-time because they mean once I’m done for the day, I’m truly done for the day and I need to wait for 24-hours to continue with my playtime.
Now, there are some small issues with Ooblets, chief among them being some of the door animations which show you as entering a building but don’t transition you into the new building unless you press A at exactly the correct angle. Additionally, the toolbar isn’t the most intuitive, given that it can’t directly interact with the objects in it. For example, as perform tasks, you lose energy. In order to regain that energy, you can choose to nap, or more conveniently eat energy bars or other items. That said, when equipped, I wasn’t able to find a way to directly consume the item without entering the inventory screen, select the item, and then selecting the action. This is tedious given the simplicity with which you are able to use other tools and items.
The other issue, which may be specific to only the Xbox One port, is that there are no options to adjust your screen to fit the ratio of your television. Because of this, when I entered dance-battles I was unable to read the full queues at the bottom of the screen and as someone with bad eyesight, even with glasses, it made learning how to battle harder than it should have been. That said, once you pick up how to battle, you don’t really need that area of the screen.
But those small hiccups are exactly that, small and are easily overlooked when taking into account the game’s ability to immerse its players and keep them engaged through a variety of mechanics. Additionally, the art style of the game is whimsical, fun, and bright without being vibrantly overpowering. While Ooblets‘s art style and creature designs will pull you in, its mechanics will keep you engaged and playing long before you told yourself that you’re going to go to bed. Beautiful, fun, and the perfect way to detach from the stress of everyday life, Ooblets isn’t just a cute game, it’s the game I needed right now.
Ooblets is now available on Xbox One’s Game Previews and on PC via the Epic Games Store.
While Ooblets‘s art style and creature designs will pull you in, its mechanics will keep you engaged and playing long before you told yourself that you’re going to go to bed. Beautiful, fun, and the perfect way to detach from the stress of everyday life, Ooblets isn’t just a cute game, it’s the game I needed right now.