Long about the original demo, I excitedly watched some Ooblets gameplay. Cute pastel village, dancing anthropomorphized animal/plant things, and a card battle structure vaguely reminiscent of Slay the Spire? Sounds neat! So when I got the opportunity to try out the full game, which was recently released on Nintendo Switch, I was thrilled. After all, the Nintendo Switch is the perfect place for these sorts of “comfort food” games and great indies – because you can take them with you anywhere you go or get cozied up at home and play them on the big screen on a rainy day.
Ooblets is a classic “fish out of water story.” You just arrived off the boat (literally) and you’re thrust into a strange culture you know nothing about. The people of Badgetown speak differently than you, act differently, and have little pets called Ooblets that follow them around everywhere they go and live for the dance. You’ve got no money, no idea what an Ooblet even is, and even less direction in life.
You’re given a farmstead to fix up and call your own and before long, are tasked with not only working the land but helping the citizens of Badgetown get their own projects back in order, mostly under the order of the town’s energetic, pink haired mayor.
More succinctly than all that, the best way I can describe what Ooblets is like: Pokemon meets Stardew Valley with a bit of Slay the Spire thrown in. It most strongly resembles Pokemon, as you’ll be creating a team of Ooblets with different skills and talents (in the form of cards) that you can then dance battle against other teams of ooblets with. Different Ooblets wander different areas on different days, and special “gleamy” Ooblets with unusual talents can appear. Each Ooblet levels up as you do more dance battles and as they level up they can also gain new talents.
Dance battles take the form of a card battle. You have a certain number of beats to play cards with, and you can play cards until you run out of beats. Cards can buff, debuff, attack, etc. I think I liked this aspect of Ooblets the most, though I was slightly disappointed with the lack of difficulty- it’s hard not to win, and I think the balance there needs to be adjusted.
Meanwhile, life at the farm is a huge grind, with plants to grow to get gummies (the town currency) and mats to gather to repair this or that. You’ve got a finite amount of energy and start with barely any money, and farming many items takes days. I enjoyed this to some extent but thought it was quite the grind just to be able to do anything, and further that there were some materials and items I didn’t even know where to find and no tutorial or cutesy mayor was helping me find.
As for the ambience of Ooblets – it’s cute. The town’s cute, the characters somewhat amusing, but in a lot of ways, it felt false. I like when games have humor at their core and I love the cute cozy aesthetic that’s been so popular with games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley, but ultimately Ooblets just seems to try too hard. After awhile, the way they talked annoyed me, and the somewhat snarkiness of it all got to be more abrasive than amusing. Couple this with the fact that there’s a million quests to do and crops to grow before you can even get out of the starting area, and I ended up more irritated with the daily grind than excited for it.
I can’t say that Ooblets wasn’t mostly what I expected – it was. But when I thought about my time with Ooblets, I couldn’t honestly say that there were any standout memories of my time with the game. What could have been cute felt forced, the grind was unpleasant, there wasn’t much in the way of tutorials to help ease the burden, and the “story” didn’t really drive me to press on.
Earlier I mentioned a few other games Ooblets reminded me of, and at the end of the day, I feel like Ooblets tried to do a lot, but didn’t end up with a game that was more than the sum of the parts it was trying to emulate.
That’s not to say the game’s not worth playing – I enjoyed collecting Ooblets and to some extent being a farmer – I just didn’t get that feeling of belonging or wanting to belong.
Ooblets is available now on Nintendo Switch.