Ooblets Is the Ray of Sunshine We All Need (Game Review)

The internet isn't all doom and gloom, you know. Believe it or not, if you look hard enough on them there social media platforms, you will find pockets of sunshine everywhere; communities of people who have found a safe place to exist and be themselves online. Of course, we don't often think about the internet that way, because those happy pockets are stitched onto a big shirt of seething anger and resentment. Ooblets, a game by British indie developer Glumberland, feels like what would happen if you took all the beautiful, smiley, rainbow-infused positivity that exists within such online spaces, and made a game out of it.

Currently in early access for PC (through Epic Game Store) and Xbox One, Ooblets is a life simulation game that combines two equally addictive gameplay genres. It takes the same kind of easy to pick up farming reminiscent of beloved series like Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley, and mashes it together with the creature collecting and battling of the likes of Pokémon, and it does so with its own refreshing take. Combine that with a unique personality and lovely cell-shaded visuals, and you end up with a game that is oozing with such sincere charm that it could make even the biggest cynic crack a smile.

After stepping off the boat in Badgetown, a town located on the isle of Oob, you're greeted by the pink-haired, rainbow-hatted Mayor Tinstle. You start off by running around this colourful twee town and introducing yourself to the townsfolk, who love to strut their stuff and greet you with cooky conversation. Then you get your first Ooblet, which is one of the many cute plant creatures you will be collecting in this game. After a short tutorial that teaches you how to face your Ooblet off against another Ooblet through the medium of dance (this appears to be how conflict is settled in Badgetown), you are given a beaten up farmhouse to live in (for free) then next thing you know, you are swept up in the game's highly addictive gameplay loop.

There's two main things that you will find yourself focusing on in Ooblets. Firstly, the growing and hoarding of various plants and materials that are used to complete tasks for Mayor Tinstle (satisfyingly alliterated as "tinstle tasks"), who is trying her best to appease the Ooblet High Council. You are responsible for finding materials to fix up the town's many dilapidated structures of budding potential, like the clubhouses, the dance barn and even your own house. You're also tasked to fix other things like an Ooblet scanning machine for Rugnolia's Ooblet research project, as well as Gimble's hot air balloon so you can travel to other parts of Oob. Sometimes one of the many townsfolk might just need you to get them a particular item. Either way, you're set to become the handiest person that Badgetown has ever seen. Most of the needed materials for any of the game's tasks can be found around the town, spawning randomly each day (some rarer than others), but most can be grown on your farm using seeds you find or buy from the seed store. Just till the land, plant the seeds, and make sure you keep them watered. Occasionally you'll need to weed them. Later on you can unlock sprinklers and other helpful tools that can get a lot of the work done for you. While growing the required amount of certain materials can take a few in-game days (the game handily tells you how long each seed has left to grow), no stress is placed upon you. It's all very calming, really. There's no time limits, no penalties, no tension, just a reassuring "you did good" at the end of each in-game day. Whether you harvested enough crops to finish a task or two, or you simply just danced all day instead, that's no problem, because in Badgetown, you did good. There's always tomorrow.

The other most important part of the game are the titular Ooblet creatures. Using your starter Ooblet, you will face off with other Ooblets that hang around town in turn-based dance offs that feature a trading card game attack system. The reward for winning is a seed of the Ooblet you just defeated. Plant these seeds on your farm and you can grow yourself another Ooblet. Next thing you know you've got a whole gang of Ooblets behind you that you can use in battles that require anywhere up to a max of six Ooblets. They can also be put to work on your farm using "Oobcoops", meaning you don't need to spend as much of your time maintaining it and harvesting it, so get a few Oobcoops filled up, pop a load of sprinklers and other contraptions down and you've got a farm that practically runs itself.
Each Ooblet also has an uncommon colour and a flashy "gleamy" version too, meaning there are a lot of these creatures for completionists to acquire. If you get each unique Ooblet (including its variations) scanned in Rugnolia's Ooblet scanning machine, you will recieve a little statue of it, which you can put on display in the Town hall. Mayor Tinstle likes it when you do that.

So yeah, that turn-based trading card game dance off system I mentioned. It's beautifully simple but incredibly fun, shedding any of the obtuseness sometimes seen in the battle systems of more typical RPGs. The aim is to gain enough points to reach a set score total. Every turn you can play a card specific to one of your Ooblets that can either have it dance to gain more points towards the goal, add "hype", which is basically a move that raises the amount of beats a card gives you, or cast "fluster" which debuffs the opponent, making their dance moves weaker. You start each turn with a specific amount of "beats", and each card requires a certain amount of beats to use, so there's an element of strategy in deciding which cards need to be played each turn. As your Ooblets level up, they'll earn more unique move cards that can be put to use. You'll pick it up in an instant, and love it. Once you're comfortable with the battle system, you can get the dance barn fixed up and compete in daily tournaments where beating three opponents can win you a rare Ooblet seed.
Also, your character also always commends the opponent Ooblet for working hard when they lose. Have I already mentioned how positive this game is?

As you go back and fourth between farming and dance battling to the sounds of Pedro Silva's excellent soundtrack, you will gain two types of currency. The first, and most common, are Gummies, which are essentially the game's equivalent to money and can be spent in the game's different shops. You'll use them to buy food, seeds, purchase clothes and get your hair changed, as well as buying furniture and upgrades for your house. You can sell materials and plants to gain more gummies.
Wishies are a little bit more substantial, as they are used to unlock much more important upgrades, such as adding more items to shops, adding more Ooblets to the town, and unlocking helpful bits of kit for your farm. Wishies are achieved by receiving progress badges and completing three fairly simple daily tasks that reset at the start of each day. 
At the beginning of your stay in Badgetown, you will find that you are running low on a bit of everything, materials, currency, you name it. But once you start to learn the ins and outs of the gameplay, fix up vital buildings and upgrade certain tools/farm contraptions, you'll find yourself rustling up materials and racking up gummies and wishies in no time. It still requires work, but the feeling that you've worked hard to make that work so much easier through all the errands you've done, and the tools you've invested in, makes for a really satisfying feeling.

Ooblets is a delightful and relaxing gameplay experience from start to finish. It feels cosy and safe; the kind of game that makes you want to stick around. Customise your character to be whoever you want them to be, and roam around in the delightful spaces of Badgetown and beyond, away from conflict and stress. If you can, don't just watch a Let's Play, play it for yourself, because it's one of those special games that truly becomes its best when you make it yours. I sincerely hope that Ooblets comes to more consoles, because I'd love to see this wonderful title become accessible to an even wider audience.
I suppose all that is left to do is scratch my head and see if I can think of any gripes I have with the game. I did have one particular gameplay-related one, concerning the fact that there was a limited amount of Ooblets you could have at one time, and the only way to fix this issue was to build or upgrade an Oobcoop to put them in, which requires quite a few materials, including Oobsidian, which is fairly uncommon. This halted gameplay quite a bit, as materials I could save for tasks were instead being used to build Oobcoops. Well, as I was writing this article, the developers added in a new feature, the Wildlands, which allows you to send Ooblets you no longer need away so you can free up space to get new ones. A lot of early access games often get criticised, but Ooblets is being constantly updated, with bugs getting squashed swiftly and even new content getting added since the game's launch on July 15th, 2020. The developers have been incredibly active and responsive on Twitter too, providing updates on incoming hotfixes and responding to the questions of excited fans. I'm keeping my eyes constantly peeled to see what Glumberland do for this game next. The Oob revolution is running like a well-oiled machine. And I am well and truly here for it.

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