Gotta catch’ em all?
This all begins when you land in the mainland Oob. You are a newcomer wanting to get out of your homeland in Ahroh Island in order to travel to new places, and as soon as you meet the mayor of this quaint place you’re given a farmhouse and land to maintain and, as you choose a club, your first Ooblet. But, first and foremost, what’s an Ooblet?
As it turns out, Ooblets are creatures that are born from seeds like any plant, but they interact with you and follow you on your endeavours across the town. They’re cute and wholesome little beings that like to be petted and dance around people, and the way to obtain new ones is to challenge groups of different ones to a dance contest, which they’ll only accept depending on what offerings you have for them, from harvested vegetables to something less natural like…ramen, or hop dobs. To get those, you have to make the most of the plot of land you’re given that will serve you as the main source of materials to cook or assemble into any needed items. The mechanics about managing the tools and resources are easy to grasp, but also require attention as you go since things as weeds and obstacles are faster to appear and contaminate our land.
Dance off, right now
A nice change of pace comes in the form of daily and periodic tasks given by numerous NPCs which, as opposed to several other games of the same genre, you never feel them as heavily demanding or repetitive as some games do (I’m looking at you Tom Nook). This is an impressive feat to accomplish in such a clean way, without removing all of the challenge of said tasks.
Although it’s difficult no to make a comparison between Ooblets and a certain pocket monsters game, the differences between them appear early on, and are as strong as possible. Ooblets forgoes any kind of violence with and leans into silly breakdance battles and some turn-based card strategies. The game mechanics are more simple and dynamic in terms of Ooblet collection and combat, the latter remaining straightforward and entertaining but shorter than any pokemon game, and instead presenting it with the Ooblet growing and harvesting as a combined part of the gameplay.
Make my monster grow
Capturing Ooblets is a consequence of those dance battles more than the main focus of the story, which is centred on your personal journey and relationships with the friends you can make. The interactions between your character and your friends in the town are usually funny and wholesome; the mix of the cheerful demeanour of those characters and the underlying comedic tone in the flavour text and the dialogue creates the relaxing atmosphere this game constantly exudes. This is all accompanied by a very cute and colourful aesthetic, with a level of detail that succeeds in delighting the player with things as simple as an Ooblet with a lollipop just vibing over a fence in the background, or your friends dancing in the distance as you walk around, or even their reactions whenever you play an instrument in front of them (I can’t stop bothering everyone with the toot horn).
After several hours of playing Ooblets, I remain sincerely stunned by the level of attention to detail and how well polished this game looks, with an amount of content that is surprisingly large for an Early Access game. I’m curious and eager to witness where this fresh and cheerful experience will go next, and I really hope to get to meet more Ooblets along the road.
[Reviewed on PC]