Sunday, July 14, 2024

Ooblets 1.0 Review – Feel-good farming fantasy

Who hasn’t dreamed of simply ‘hitting da bricks’ when life sucks and starting anew somewhere that seems much cooler? Glumberland’s Ooblets lets players live out this fantasy, while also showing just how much work actually goes into building a new life in a seemingly idyllic community.

The island your player character is from doesn’t have the titular creatures, and (along with some other issues) is therefore a bummer to live on. Finally, they decide to hop into a dinky little row boat and make their way to Badgetown on the mainland of Oob. Here, the mayor Tinstle allows you to take over a ramshackle farmhouse on the condition you get it fixed up and presentable. She also hooks you up with an ooblet club, which gives you your first collectable critter. With some starter seeds in hand, you’re ready to begin your new life of harvesting crops, running errands, making friends, and dance battles.

Screenshot of Taffy from Ooblets standing near the Wishywell
Provided by Glumberland

Technically, Ooblets has been out in early access since 2020, but this is both the full 1.0 release and the drop of the Nintendo Switch port. The game runs surprisingly well on the Switch; I only ran into one major bug, which the developers were quick to help me with. Steady updates over the past two years have added more and more to this funky little game, but this version is the full picture.

Shortly after taking up residence in Badgetown, Tinstle informs you that the Ooblet High Council are trying to get the town unincorporated for some reason. They’ve not given Tinstle much in the way of an explanation, but have provided some action items to try to improve the town’s chances. Unsurprisingly, the mayor turns to you for help with getting these tasks taken care of. Tinstle also believes that connecting the Oobet again will improve the town’s quality of life, even if it doesn’t impress the Council. To do this, you have to travel to multiple different areas outside of Badgetown to connect the towers.

Getting anything done in Ooblets requires players to enter an almost constant loop of farming, foraging, crafting, cooking, and dancing. Most conflicts in Oob are resolved with dance battles between Ooblets. Dancing is an important part of their culture, so the humans of Oob have become willing partners in this tradition. Most of the game’s Oobnet Towers are only accessible via dance battle, though there are a few spins on the formula as you travel to various regions.

Screenshot of the Nullwhere region in Ooblets
Provided by Glumberland

Dancing is also the primary way to acquire new kinds of Ooblets to add to your party or farm. When you defeat a wild critter in a dance battle, you can choose to accept a seed from it. Planting these allows you to grow one of that species for yourself. Aside from adding entries to your almanac when you encounter different kinds of creatures, you also get a monetary reward for growing different Ooblets, which even have the equivalent of rare and shiny versions that are worth more.

While it’s cool that there are so many kinds of Ooblets out there, and the designs are unique enough to stay interesting, the creature collecting aspect of this game becomes forgettable once you have a solid team on your hands. The incentives to collect never go away, but it’s difficult to manage a ton of critters at once, even with oobcoops and the Wildlands. And once you have your farm up and running smoothly, you probably won’t be hurting for gummies, in-game currency.

Dancing with each new kind of Ooblet requires specific materials, be they individual crafting items, crops, or fully cooked treats. Investing the time in getting these materials or recipes (some of which you can only get by assembling pieces of recipes) doesn’t always feel worthwhile to get a new critter when you could be putting that time and effort towards other goals.

Screenshot of wigglewip ooblets dancing next to a boombox
Provided by Glumberland

The loop of farming, crafting, cooking, and dancing is definitely as chill as the game’s pastel aesthetics would indicate. It’s very much geared towards the crowd looking for cozy, non-confrontational games within the so-called “wholesome” genre. That said, it does fall into the trap of leaning a bit into infantilization while going for cute. Everything in this game has a silly name that references its use. Fishing is “sea dangling,” treats are “treabies,” your watering can is a “dribbler,” you get it. While Ooblets is a game I’m sure players of almost any age could enjoy, the naming starts to make it feel geared towards babies after a while. It’s weird and a bit jarring to have jokes about crypto and being overly self-aware in a game that calls junk “nurnies.”

Though the cutesy-ness of it all can be a bit cloying at times, overall Ooblets is a relaxing, fun time that could easily fill the void left behind by games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons or Stardew Valley. There’s so much to do, all with very little pressure or stress in the doing. It’s also really nice to have a game in this style that’s focused on really becoming part of a community and making it better, rather than taking over and becoming the de facto leader.

Score: 5/5

Ooblets for Nintendo Switch was provided to Gayming Magazine by PR.

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