Dog fighting sucks. Not a controversial opinion, but one that always enters my mind when I see or think about Pokémon. While I understand all the reasons why folks claim it’s different, it still feels too much like that terrible “sport.” Ooblets, out now in early access, fixes this major problem with Pokémon and also adds some Stardew Valley-like farming and a chill world to the mix.
Ooblets starts with you deciding to leave your boring old life and head out to a new, weird island where people live side by side with small, cute critters called Ooblets. Think Pokémon, but cuter, smaller, and less dangerous and creepy. These little creatures can look like mushrooms, tree stumps, robots, and more. They are adorable. I love them. When you arrive you quickly get an Ooblet of your very own and the mayor gives you a beat-up old shack and some land in exchange for helping out around the island. And that’s the main setup, you help people, meet new Ooblets, and use the resources you earn from doing all this to build up and improve your farm and home. It’s a simple and satisfying loop, made more enjoyable by just how damn cute and nice the world of Ooblets is to explore.
This is a world where people say all sorts of weird, made-up words and where nobody seems to stress about much. A world where anyone can be who they want to be, including yourself. The game lets you mix and match traditional masculine and feminine clothing and hairstyles. Also, all the menu options are written casually, with stuff like “Nah” instead of no and “Sure…cool” instead of yes. If that sounds annoying to you, then you probably won’t enjoy the rest of Ooblets’ style and presentation. But I found it just quirky and funny enough without crossing into annoying territory.
It’s not just about exploring a cute and casual world in Ooblets. There is “combat” between your growing team of Ooblets and other Ooblets. However, this combat isn’t about physically attacking or hurting the other critters. Instead, you fight in dance-offs, surrounded by other dancing Ooblets. While in-game these “fights” are shown to be contests of dance, the actual combat plays out via cards. These card battles aren’t like Hearthstone, where you’re trying to destroy cards and hurt your opponent. Instead, you try to earn points quickly to fill a metre and reach a certain amount first.
To do this you either play standard move cards which you always have access to or special cards that only certain Ooblets bring with them into battle. For example, my little robot Oobolet, Sidekey, had a special ability that let him double the number of points I earned for my next move card. Each card has a “beats” cost, which is just another word for mana. Each turn you get three mana points and you try to earn as many points as you can. It’s simple, but after only an hour of playing, I was finding new cards and strats that helped make things more interesting. I can easily see this expanding more and more as I find more Ooblets and face tougher critters.
As in Stardew Valley, you have a town filled with locals who all have their own personalities and behaviours. You can talk to them all and be friendly with everyone or ignore some of them, like the cop who suggests he will arrest me if I yell too loudly. (As always, ACAB.)
Also, like Stardew, you have to manage your energy. Do too much, like tilling a bunch of land or picking a lot of fruits, and you’ll get tired and fall asleep. You can drink and eat to regain energy, but the best way is to sleep at night. Though try to explore a little bit while the sun is down. The game looks wonderful, especially at night.
There’s a large amount of stuff in Ooblets. Lots of people to talk to, side activities to try out, challenges to complete, furniture to buy, and farming to be done. You can grow crops to sell, eat, or even collect seeds from defeated Ooblets and grow new critters who join you on your adventure. I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting this much depth and was pleasantly surprised to find so much to do. After only 3 hours I’m wanting to play more. I want to see and collect more Ooblets. I also just want to keep saying the word Ooblets.
Ooooobbllets. Fun to say. Fun to type. Fun to play.
Ooblets is available now in early access on the Epic Games Store or Xbox One via Game Preview.