Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
I made the mistake of passing on Slime Rancher when it launched last year, dismissing it as overly cutesy and simplistic. I’m pleased to report that after spending some quality time on the Far Far Range, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Newly arrived on PlayStation 4 this week, Slime Rancher boasts a perfect blend of ranch management with open world exploration, using little more than a portable vacuum.
Home on the Range
Despite the first-person angle and total lack of NPCs in the world, there is a story of sorts in Slime Rancher. You play as Beatrix LeBeau, a young woman who sets down on a planet with only one native species: slimes.
Throughout the adventure Beatrix receives letters from her corporate overlords and past friends, as well as fetch quests from fellow ranchers and scientists. But much of the story plays out in the background. The real action involves catching slimes and building your farm.
The slimes are very cute, and clearly inspired from the smiley-faced slimes of the Dragon Quest RPG series. There is a healthy amount of slime variety in the world, from the happy-go-lucky pink slimes to the explosive boom slimes and nocturnal phospor slimes. Slimes bounce all around and consume different kinds of food, depending on the slime. When a slime eats it, er, deposits a jewel-like object called a plort.
The way to make money in Slime Rancher is to sell these plorts. The basic feedback loop for the entire game is as follows: feed slime, grab plort, sell plort. It’s shocking how satisfying that simple economy feels even 10+ hours later.
Slimes need to be housed in corrals while food can be grown in gardens (or chickens in coops for the carnivorous slimes). You’re limited to certain plots of land on the ranch, but eventually can expand into larger sections, including an underground cavern and some seaside docks.
Maintaining the ranch remains fun thanks to the automated systems you can continually build toward, like auto-feeders and plort collectors. In the later stages I can easily spend a solid 20 minutes running around doing odd jobs around my ranch, collecting plorts, harvesting food, checking the plort economy, unlocking new blueprints, and consulting the mission board. Once I’m satisfied, it’s time to head out into the world.
Have VacPack, Will Travel
The world of Slime Rancher starts small, but begins to open up as you feed giant slimes, acquire keys, and unlock doors to new areas. Early on you unlock dash boots and a jetpack, making exploration fast and rewarding thanks to the many nooks, crannies, and secrets to find. Since there’s no falling damage to worry about I particularity enjoyed the use of vertical spaces in many areas.
The slime world is made up of different distinct regions and areas (and thankfully has a nice-looking in-game map). Each area has its own native slimes, food, and secrets to discover. Unfortunately much of the time is spent backtracking back to the ranch. You can unlock a few teleporters but it’s not until fairly late in the game that you can build your own fast travel network.
One of the biggest limitations and challenges is inventory space. You only ever have four different inventory slots in your VacPack, though you can increase the number of items each slot can hold. The only way to interact with anything in the world is by sucking it up and depositing it elsewhere. It’s an agonizing challenge to decide which items to keep.
Often I have to plan ahead on which items I need to bring back from which areas, as well as which food items I need to bring with me when leaving the ranch. The constant back and forth was never too frustrating but I would have preferred the ability to unlock teleporters earlier or getting more inventory spaces by the later stages.
Although Beatrix does have a health bar, slimes are mostly friendly and non-dangerous. A few can damage you incidentally, like the boom slimes and rad slimes, but it’s easy to avoid. Some areas feature feral largo slimes that offer a nice bit of danger, though they can be placated with food (or simply run past them).
The real danger are the Tarrs, which are special rainbow-black slimes that are created when slimes eat too many different plorts. These slimes are large and aggressive, destroying other slimes and creating more Tarrs. A Tarr breakout at the ranch can spell disaster, though they can be defeated by shooting them with water.
Slime Rancher is rated E for Everyone. The slimes are all very cute (kitty slimes!), bouncey, and giggly, and the world is bright and colorful. The Tarr slimes are suitably scary, and may catch younger kids off guards with their aggressive, dangerous natures.
Slime Rancher gave me the “just one more thing” vibe from Stardew Valley, which is the highest praise I can give any farm sim game. Despite the extremely limited inventory spaces in the VackPack, backtracking never felt terribly tedious thanks to the zippy speed in which you can dash and glide around the world. The Far Far Range remains fun to explore for the 15 or so hours it takes to see it all, and you could easily play another dozen hours after that to unlock all the treasure pods, research all the blueprints, and build the self-sustaining slime farm of your dreams.