Following six years of development, Glumberland finally presents Ooblets, a quirky, creature-collecting life sim set in a rundown town. But this game offers more than just creature collecting. Between farming, making friends, and busting a move, players are responsible for restoring life to Badgetown and its surrounding areas through the power of the ‘Oobnet’.
At the beginning of the game, the player is swiftly taken through character creation and a brief backstory of how they ended up in Badgetown. At first, the story declares that the player is searching for a new lease of life after their previous became tedious. Rather than sticking around, they’ve packed their things and headed to a more promising outlet — somewhere where Ooblets, the creatures in which the game gets its name, are a-plenty, and adventure isn’t taboo.
Ooblets are small, animate critters that love to do nothing but follow their master and dance. They’re simple in design, supporting the attractive, low-poly aesthetic of the game. They come in a wide variety of forms, which are logged in the player’s easy-to-access progress book, the Grumboire, alongside badges to earn, friendship progression, and an almanac for Ooblets’ considerable number of collectibles.
But upon arriving in Badgetown, the story shifts from pursuing the dream of finding a new lifestyle to helping develop the lives of the townsfolk. Badgetown is a charming yet decrepit location that desperately needs some TLC, and that challenge is swiftly passed on to the player. While the main campaign follows you reconnecting Badgetown to the Oobnet by visiting new locations to reconnect their power, the town’s development slowly evolves in the background as the story progresses.
Gameplay consists of three distinct sections: farm management, quest completion, and combat, and all of it is dependent on a day and night cycle. A single day in Ooblets spans twenty real-life minutes. At first, these days seem to pass incredibly slowly, as most of the time is dedicated to exploring, but as more Tinstle Tasks become available, there isn’t enough time in a single day to get around to everything you want.
The gameplay is incredibly open as the player begins to take on more quests and challenges. Obviously, the quests are there as a general guide and certain ones need to be followed to unlock areas outside of Badgetown, but one of the game’s most significant appeals is its laid-back, relaxing atmosphere, which allows the player to enjoy the story at their own pace and in their own style.
Though accompanying this adventure is a finite energy bar that will steadily deplete while undertaking any strenuous activity, be it farming, collecting foragables, or the general cleanup of the town. Unfortunately, energy drains relatively quickly once you start to sink your teeth into daily tasks. Unless armed with an inventory of Bunglebee Buns to restore energy, most of the day will be spent napping, which quickly loses its charm. There is a way to increase the energy bar via the Wishy Well, but it comes with a hefty price tag which will put many players off.
Regarding combat, the unique ‘dance-off’ approach takes the form of card-based battles which are dependent on the Ooblets involved in the competition. Each Ooblet comes with a signature move at level one, which will be placed into the player’s deck each match. As the Ooblets level up, more signature moves are unlocked. So one of the main incentives to continue engaging in dance-offs is to bulk out your deck and unlock more powerful actions as the story continues. This is encouraged by the funky, upbeat soundtrack that accompanies every match, and is certain to get even the most stubborn players grooving.
Initially, combat is almost laughably simple, but as the game progresses, competition becomes much more fierce. Certain competitors may result in more than one attempt, but not every dance is player vs. competitor. Ooblets appear around every location daily, and to collect them all, they must be challenged to a dance-off. Upon winning, the opposing Ooblet will present the player with a seed, which can be grown on the farm to harvest one of the same species.
But Ooblets are more than just adorable creatures to collect. Outside of dancing, the player must rely on Ooblets to help out around the farm. Building machines and using Wishies wisely to unlock recipes is essential to creating an efficient farm without wasting a day sowing seeds. Ooblets can be assigned to each machine around the farm, which can help in crop cultivation, harvesting, or any task to turn over a profit. Up to eight Ooblets can follow the player and engage in combat, and up to twelve remain at the farm. Of course, this number of ‘home babies’ can be increased over time, but twelve is more than enough to get you started.
The game’s general tone is best described as tongue-in-cheek and contains a considerable number of puns and jokes that will no doubt have you smiling at your screen. Each character the player interacts with has an incredibly unique look and personality and is more than happy to speak with the player each day. The more you stop to chat, the stronger your friendship with the townsfolk, and more requests and challenges become readily available.
However, in terms of controls, Ooblets faces a few issues. Even though the controls are relatively easy to pick up and remember, a few instructions on the screen list the incorrect button. For example, at Port Forward, the player has to get the high score in a series of arcade games, but looking at the instructions on how to play, the jump or action button is listed as ‘B’ but is actually ‘A’ on the Switch. Sure, it’s easy enough to get used to after a few attempts at the minigame. However, it’s still detrimental to the first few experiences.
Additionally, during our playthrough, the Joy-Cons had a few issues flicking through the inventory when disconnected from the console. Switching through the almanac or furniture menu in the Grumbooire via ‘ZL’ and ‘ZR’ was fine when playing handheld but impossible when playing docked. Although these are minor bugs that will undoubtedly be fixed in a future patch update, they still impacted our general flow with the game.
Despite the obvious control flaws, Ooblets is an undeniably charming and fun life simulator perfect for anyone looking for a relaxing approach to adventure. There’s enough content within this adorable game to keep any player occupied for hours, with the central campaign taking around thirty hours to complete — though avid explorers will get closer to the sixty-hour mark if they can get past the expensive, exhausting stamina system. Still, even post storyline, Ooblets kept us coming back for more farming and more dance-offs.