Ooblets, the long-anticipated game from Glumberland, is finally out in early access on Xbox One and the PC’s Epic Games Store. A lot of people have been wanting to play for many reasons for years, but something about the timing of this release feels especially resonant. Ooblets is here when we need it more than ever.
Describing Ooblets is a bit difficult without knowing a few cultural touchstones. Its structure feels built on the back of Stardew Valley, which itself refined elements from Story of Seasons: you spend time and energy every day on tasks, and farm management is a big component. Its creature collection is certainly echoing Pokémon, though its combat feels more like Slay the Spire, Hearthstone or SteamWorld Quest. The chill, run-errands-and-talk-to-people setup has some Animal Crossing DNA. And the writing style, fueled by years of being quirky on the internet, is very much its own.
What makes Ooblets work so well right now is a combination of relentless positivity, relaxed consequences for failure and a smorgasbord of goals to bounce around and achieve. You can get lost in Ooblets for hours when you need a distraction. You can pop in for an in-game day for a quick pick-me-up.
A game about being very chill could have relied on that and not put so much thought into individual activities. Instead, Ooblets is all very careful. Dance battles are like a deck-building game, with each creature being a packet of special ability cards. With the number of “beats” to spend to play cards and the total points needed to win changing with the participant count, this isn’t static.
Sidekey, one of the game’s potential starters, specializes in larger battles with higher point totals and partners with cool, big moves to duplicate. Clickyclaws is another possible early MVP with its cheaper plays. Neither, though, shines in one-on-one dances quite like Lumpstump with its momentum-building hype moves. Dumbirb is all about flustering the opponent to a standstill, but needs some offensive help.
So the cute little buds are also combo fuel. It’s not too hard to build some game-breaking squads, especially with opponents largely playing cards at random. But the process of breaking the game is a blast. As the game throws six-on-six fights or special modifiers at you, those are new systems to joyfully disassemble.
The farming elements of Ooblets are very much built on the Stardew Valley model, but it’s this commitment to being real chill and doing whatever that makes it feel different. It’s never punishing to farm things. It’s theoretically possible to fail and let crops die, but mostly slip-ups lead to the process just slowing down a bit. Weeds pop up and pause development. Soil dries for a bit until you water it again (or it rains).
Eventually you can put your Ooblets to work handling most of that, too. Oobcoops, in addition to giving your pals a part-time job tending the nine surrounding plots, serve as your storage. You’ll need to build new ones and upgrade them to keep pushing past the eight you can carry, but that also means you’ll likely fill your farm with tons of them and have them handle things for you.
But Ooblets makes sure you know there’s a third pillar of gameplay, too: getting to know villagers. By far the biggest source of personal experience points, building friendships with the town is as simple as chatting with people when they have something to say. But, of course, you can also do them favors for big bonuses. In addition to leveling up yourself, you’ll often get lots of cool items and resources as a reward. Each system helps the others, so you never feel like you’re wasting time even if your focus is on enjoying a particular element.
Like any good slow-life game, there are little things you can invest time into when you’d like. Want to deck out your avatar with cool clothes and your home with eclectic furniture? You can make it happen. Want to go fishi— I mean sea dangling? Go for it, and pick up some nice supplies while you’re at it. Ooblets wants you to enjoy the time you spend playing it, however it is you choose.
There are some elements of the launch version of Ooblets that could use a bit of ironing out. Of course, bugs and crashes happen, and they’re tolerable in frequency but should be addressed in time. Building the structures needed to get more Ooblets does become something of an arduous task after a while. This is likely meant to give strong meaning to growing a new one, but it makes collecting each type something of a grind. Keep that in mind! Maybe don’t plant seeds for ones you don’t know you want yet? But building and upgrading Oobcoops is definitely the long-term project. It’d be nice if that curve were a bit less steep in the early going.
Still, we’re glad that Ooblets is available now, even if it’s got a little more growing to do. There’s no worry about competitive multiplayer or microtransactions or constant failure states. It’s just thoroughly, relentlessly pleasant. It’s a warm hug in game form, and lots of people could use that these days.