Stardew Valley was my personal game of the year in 2016. Like so many others, I’d paid zero attention to farm-sim games before falling completely in love with the 16-bit art-style, charming characters and town, and endless variety of gameplay.
Ooblets, available now in Early Access via Epic Games Store and Xbox One, may lack Stardew’s pixel art, but it’s every way an effective farm-sim successor, along with its own unique charm and gameplay courtesy of the titular creatures.
Sea-Dangling in Badgetown
As in many farm-sim games, my customizable character arrives in a new town with a fresh start for the future. Badgetown is home to a number of quirky, endearing citizens, including childlike Mayor Tinstle who hands over a fixer-upper farm house.
The town has a number of shops and amenities, like stores for furniture, seeds, and clothing, as well as a dock for fishing (“Sea dangling”) and a recycling machine called a reconstitooter. The cutesy, silly tone drips out of every aspect of the world, including the dialogue, character names (Churles!), item names (sweetiebees, oobsidian, nurnies), and even the confirmation buttons (“Yuh” and “Nuh”). The gameplay wears its tone and art style well, though if you find the cuteness grating you probably won’t last very long.
As time ticks by I can use my limited energy to engage in different tasks around town, such as picking mushrooms, shaking down trees, clearing brush, and, most importantly, farming. Farming has been streamlined down to two primary tools – a hoe for making farmable dirt, and a watering can to water seeds and plants. With the press of a button I enter farming mode to clear rocks and weeds, plant seeds, water plants, and build out my dream farm.
I don’t have it to do it all on my own, however, as Badgetown is home to adorable little plant creatures called ooblets, and Mayor Tinstle happily provides my first little ooblet on my quest to grow ’em all.
In addition to the usual farm-sim gameplay loop of planting, harvesting, selling, and upgrading, I can designate a group of my oolbets as “followbabies” for dance battles against wandering ooblets in town. Unlike the “isn’t this basically dog-fighting” world of pokémon, ooblets are entirely non-violent. Instead of combat, ooblets love to dance.
When coming across wild ooblets I can choose to engage in a dance contest, which translates to a turn-based card game. Cards are played to gain points, hype (increasing card points) or beats (increasing the number of cards that can be played). Ooblets gain access to their own unique cards, creating a light deckbuilding aspect. Teams take turn playing cards until one side reaches the most points for that match.
It’s a decent, if easy, card game. Things are a bit too simple in the early game, as both sides play mostly basic cards until the inevitable outcome, but thankfully matches go quickly. Winning a match grants a new ooblet seed from the opposing side, allowing me to hatch a new ooblet for my growing family. Ooblets will help out around the farm, or join my party to help in future dance-battles.
Most importantly, Ooblets captures that feeling of “just one more day” that I felt with Stardew Valley. Thanks to a myriad of Tinstle Tasks, there’s always something to work towards, and usually multiple somethings, such as joining dance tournaments in the Dance Barn, taking the hot air balloon to explore different regions (and find new ooblets), and completing daily tasks to earn wishies, which can unlock a multitude of goodies as well as important upgrades.
Ooblets is already a very polished and satisfying farming-sim game, but can also benefit from additional content and feedback from a lengthy stint in Early Access. If you’re a fan of farm-sim games like Stardew Valley and looking for a game with equal parts satisfying gameplay and endearing charm, Ooblets is well worth jumping into.
Ooblets is available now on Epic Games Store and Xbox One. It’s rated E for Everyone.