Ooblets are strange when you’re a stranger
At first glance, Ooblets is all sunshine and rainbows. This indie life simulator, currently in early access, sees you restoring a run-down farm, aided by some obliging little creatures, the titular Ooblets. The locals, too, are more than happy to help turn your ramshackle property into a respectable money-spinner.
And yet the more time I’ve spent playing Ooblets, the more I’ve noticed things are a little off. I’ve yet to be pursued by mobs of pointing, howling villagers but there’s definitely something amiss on Planet Oob. Here are five Ooblet oddities that should give you pause for thought:
Ooblets watch you sleep
Wouldn’t it be adorable if, before laying your head down to sleep, each Ooblet snuggled into their own tiny Oob-bed and, one by one, you kissed them goodnight? It’s more pleasant than the current arrangement, which is that you go to bed and your Ooblets watch you sleep.
While you’re merrily skipping through dreamland their eyes are fixed on your sleeping form, like a horde of tiny Edward Cullens. They’re with you when you go to bed, and they’re there when you wake up; oversleep, and they won’t bother rousing you, they’ll just continue their nightmare vigil. Creepy doesn’t begin to cover it.
Your farm is built on a robot burial ground
Meed, owner of Meed’s Seeds frequently makes reference to her “colourful” past; one of the first things she says to you is, when maintaining your farm, you shouldn’t dig further than six feet down. It’s tempting to paint her as a serial killer, but the truth is even more bizarre, with pressing consequences for your welfare.
If there are corpses under your farm, why do you keep digging up springs or “nurnies”? The only logical conclusion is that Meed is a former Blade Runner, scrapping robots for parts and burying the remains beneath your feet. But while people stay dead, robots don’t; it can only be a matter of time before a horrifying mechanical gestalt bursts through the floor of your shack, seeking bloody vengeance.
You can abandon your Ooblets
In Pokemon, you snatch your creatures from the wild, just so you can force them to fight each other; setting them free is, at least, some small act of mercy. In Ooblets, on the other hand, it makes you a monster. Want to fit a few more Ooblets into your collection? Just send them into the wilderness, they’ll be fine.
Except they won’t. They don’t have the skills or knowledge to survive outside the familiar streets of their hometown; you’re everything they’ve ever known. You grew them from a seed, and now you’re condemning them to a miserable, lonely existence, waving them off like you’re sending them on a school trip. I hope you’re happy.
Friendship is measured in stickers
What makes a good friend? Is it someone who’s there when it counts, who stands with you when others step away, just because you’re not doing “fine”? No, according to Ooblets, friendship is measured by the number of stickers you have.
Ooblets doesn’t pretend to explore the whole emotional spectrum, but reducing interpersonal relationships to a number is right out of Black Mirror. Want help moving a wardrobe? Sure, I’ll be right round. Need support getting through a bad break-up? Sorry, that’s a four sticker job.
The one small act of rebellion available to you is refusing to fix the Printypress that churns out these superficial stickers. Though the moment there’s an achievement attached, you can bet precious few players will rage against the machine.
Ooblets are an unknown quantity
Ooblets are so numerous they outnumber the human inhabitants of Planet Oob which, unless humanity chose to invade their homeworld, is mildly disturbing. What makes this particularly unsettling is how little you actually know about the Ooblets. It might be folly to assign human values to an “alien” species, but what do they really want?
Yes, they’re adorable, but when each successful dance battle ends with them presenting you with an Ooblet seed, you start to wonder if there’s something else going on here. Is their love of dancing just a smokescreen, an excuse to push people to adopt and propagate their species? What’s the tipping point where they go from watching you sleep to sinking their teeth into your soft, slumbering flesh?
It’s particularly telling that your protagonist hails from an island where there are no Ooblets, almost as if the founders of that settlement knew something the rest of the world didn’t. Humanity could be literally sowing the seeds of their own destruction.
It gets weirder
There are other aspects of Ooblets that warrant scrutiny; since Ooblets grow from seeds, could you legally sell Clickyclaw steaks to vegetarians? How does the town function if nothing is done until a random stranger turns up? Is it really a compliment when Ooblets’ only police officer tells you you’re a kindred spirit?
Still, enjoy Ooblets by all means; there’s a lot to love about it. Just don’t blame me when the pastel-coloured nightmares start.