Ooblets is finally out in Epic Early Access and I, as I'm sure many others, am excited to see what Glumberland's hyper-cute life-sim has in store. The creature collection adventure was first announced back in 2016 and many quickly fell in love with its echoes of Pokémon, Animal Crossing, and Stardew Valley. After spending time with the characters and critters of Ooblets—crafting, gardening, dance battling, and so on—I've tenderly fallen into the gentle rhythms and daily happenings of the world of Oob, which has been a great comfort.
You've arrived in a new town with nothing but the clothes on your back, hoping to start a new ooblet-filled life. Life in the sleepy seaside setting of Badgetown consists of chatting to characters, fulfilling quests, growing crops, and, of course, collecting ooblets. The mayor of Badgetown kindly gives you an ooblet to start you off but there are forty more to collect, expanding to a total of 120 if you include uncommon and shiny versions of each creature.
Ooblets live a relatively peaceful existence, helping you maintain your garden and following you around town, but play some music and they'll burst into dance. Unlike the grassy patches in the Pokémon games, ooblets gather in small groups around town, hanging out until someone challenges them to a dance-off.
These battles play out similarly to the card system in Slay the Spire. It's a lightweight card game where you draw from a deck, and play actions to make your ooblet dance and score points. Each ooblet has special dance moves which place certain cards in your deck, so by choosing different ooblets you can tailor it around how you like to play.
I currently have a squad that focuses on moves that hype up the whole group, doubling the number of points they get when I play certain cards. There are other techniques like leeching points from the opposing team and picking up more cards. There's nothing too serious about these battles and they focus more on playfulness rather than any grand strategy.
Ooblets are graceful losers, and so after you beat them in a dance battle they give you a plant seed, letting you grow an ooblet of the same type. You can grow both ooblets and a whole host of different crops in the plot of land next to your home. Ooblets has a very helpful 'gardening mode' that lets you view not only what seeds need watering but also how long they have left until they're ready to be harvested.
Ooblets' approach to growing plants is a little different to other farming games like Stardew Valley. Normally, I would tend to my crops as soon as I woke up, but in Ooblets crops can bloom anytime throughout the day. I really like this system as it makes me switch up my daily routine instead of getting into the same daily cycle. It helps you break out of self-imposed schedules and settle into a more easy-going attitude.
Away from your plot of land, the residents and shops of Badgetown are waiting with a seemingly never-ending list of jobs that you can help out with. There's a whole lot to do: gift baskets to complete, characters to befriend, buildings to fix up, houses to furnish, clothes to buy, badges to collect—it goes on and on. Many of these quests are given to you by the lovely folk of Badgetown, with many of the missions unlocking new buildings and areas to explore.
How quickly you achieve these goals is completely up to you—it's not like the residents of this sleepy town are going anywhere—but beware to not overexert yourself. Your character has an energy meter that depletes when doing small tasks and, when it reaches zero, your avatar starts to comedically slump, making you look like a walking zombie. Fortunately it doesn't cost energy just to chat to Badegtown's friendly residents, and they're always up for telling you about the weird world of Oob.
The overall tone of Ooblets leans very much into a cutesy eccentricity that fits perfectly with its round, bubblegum visuals. It's clear that it doesn't take itself too seriously, with humour akin to Wattam, the Frog Detective series, or Sokpop's bite-sized games, but the language it uses can come across a little too cutesy, like a thick syrupy milkshake.
Many item names like froobtoses, hop dobs, nurnines, sporbets, lopauliflowers, gastroglobs, curlyhorns, and clothlets are a little too much. I love the creativity and silliness that has gone into naming the ooblets, characters and places, but making sense of an item list that reads like something out of a Dr Suess kid's book isn't helpful. Trying to remember what in the world a 'quib' is out of all the vegetables and fruit I've come across can be a little frustrating.
Although these names can sometimes be confusing, the overall vibe of Ooblets is nothing short of comforting. With certain wholesome games, there's an unfair stigma that their cutesy aesthetic and gentle game design are vapid—but that's far from true. Ooblets understands the appeal of completing small tasks and the satisfaction that players find in that. After all, the repetitive nature of these quests is a feature that Ooblets shares with big-budget open-world games. It's an achievement system that congratulates you with every step, creating a deeply gratifying feeling.
Ooblets' Early Access release has come at the perfect time. Many of us are looking for agency during a time where we are stuck inside. Games like Ooblets are there for us in times of stress. Just like how we might want to escape to an open world or replay our favourite games, we play them because they comfort us, and that feeling is important now more than ever.