After years of anticipation, I’m pleased to say Ooblets was well worth it
Ooblets is one of those games I followed from its announcement all the way back in 2016 up to its release, so it suffices to say this was a highly anticipated game for me. Stardew Valley meets Pokemon is a hell of a logline, and the combination of those gameplay elements compared with the game’s cute, colorful art style basically made it feel like it was made specifically for me. The game went into early access in 2020, but this month it got its full 1.0 release.
You’ve got all the usual mechanics you’d expect from a game like this — farming, fishing, foraging, cooking, befriending villagers — as well as some new twists. You can see clear inspiration from farming sims like Stardew, and yet Ooblets still manages to feel entirely unique in that regard. I am absolutely Ooblets’ target demographic, and I am pleased to say that I found it to be an absolute delight. Let’s talk about it.
The premise of Ooblets is that it takes place in a magical land called Oob, which is populated with creatures called… you guessed it: Ooblets. At the start of the game, the player lands at a scenic seaside town called Badgetown, having left the big city for the countryside where Ooblets run free. Naturally, they take up residence in a run-down old shed, and begin their new life as the local farmer.
Badgetown is as cozy and quaint as you’d expect, complete with a coffee shop, barber shop, clothing store, seed store, town hall, and more. The residents are a ton of fun and have some of the most distinct personalities I’ve seen in a community sim since the early Animal Crossing days. Some of their dialogue was so ridiculous and cleverly written that it genuinely made me laugh out loud, which made the friendship part of the gameplay loop something to look forward to.
In fact, all of the dialogue, item names, and descriptions are written in a goofy tone that feels reminiscent of the 2010s “sO rAnDoM XD” humor, but like, actually written in a way that feels fresh and funny rather than cringy and grating. I got the feeling when I was playing that the style might cause some players to bounce off, but I found it charming as all hell — do with that what you will.
They’ve got the moves
But let’s be real, the real pull to Ooblets is the promise of Pokemon-style battles — don’t worry, there’s plenty of that. Soon after their arrival at Badgetown, the player is tasked with selecting one of the four local Ooblets clubhouses to join based on their values (I joined the cute club Frunbuns, naturally), and by extension choosing a starter Ooblet. With your starter in tow, you can enter battles with wild Ooblets to get seeds from them. After planting those seeds and growing them on the farm, players then have their very own Ooblet of that specific type. Ta-da!
It is also crucial that I mention that your Ooblets run along behind you, following you everywhere, and there is no shortage of cute accessories to dress them up with. Finally, a game that understands my needs.
As for the dance battles themselves, well, those were yet another pleasant surprise. Rather than a typical fight where your pets are beating the crap out of each other, all of the combat in Ooblets takes the form of dance battles, an idea that made me absolutely giddy the first time I saw it. The battles are card-based, and each unique Ooblet gets their own special cards added to your deck as they level up.
You can either battle other citizens of Oob in the Dance Barn or in the other regions, or the more common means of battling is with the wild Ooblets that run around the different environments. Gotta catch ‘em all, right? Each type of wild Ooblet requires a different item in order for you to battle them, which can range from foragables to crops to processed food.
Each match sets a score somewhere between twenty and forty, and the first team to earn that number of points wins. Players earn points from cards, and there are also modifiers in play like Hype, which allows you to earn more points; Fluster, which makes you earn fewer points; Stun, which makes one of your Ooblets miss a turn; Trepidation, which adds useless cards to you or your opponent’s deck; and so on. If you’ve played any card-based battler from Hearthstone to Slay the Spire, you’ll be right at home.
Sometimes a bit offbeat
The battles are easy with a few exceptions, and a lot of times a win or loss can come down to the luck of the cards. Considering Ooblets is a chill game, I didn’t mind a bit of RNG, lest I won every single battle with no pushback.
I have a few qualms with the battles — that there wasn’t a way to look at or modify my full deck, which would have been a nice touch. Sometimes the animations for the moves could be a bit slow (which is also a problem the more recent Pokemon games have had).
The other thing is the Dance Barn battles, which are unlocked after you repair the said Dance Barn in town. It’s a tournament-style setup where you go up against other townies in 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 battles. I tried to do them as often as I had time for, and let me tell you, I only won one or two of the tournaments ever.
Jokes about my gaming abilities aside, it’s because some of the Ooblets have stun abilities. This is no problem when you’re battling with teams of four or six, but if you’re unfortunate enough to get stuck in a 1v1 with an opponent that can stun you, it’s literally game over — they stun lock you the entire match.
There are special game modes in the Dance Barn, including one where players can only use their Ooblets’ special cards, which is kind of a problem when you realize the one Ooblet you picked doesn’t have a way to earn points without the point-earning cards from the deck. Either way, I had a lot of fun with the battles, and would often go out of my way to do them just for fun.
To-do lists, but make it fun
I feel like Stardew Valley is one of those games that strikes the perfect balance of giving you just enough to do without you ever getting bored, while at the same time not overwhelming you with too much. One thing I didn’t particularly love about Ooblets was that it became a bit of a grind, requiring players to collect a ton of different items to progress the story and complete tasks.
There are like seven different entities that can give you tasks to do, not including the smaller errands imposed by your friends around town. In the early game, I was thankful to have clear objectives to get me going, but after a while, it was hard to keep track of just how many things I was trying to accomplish at the same time.
Of course, you can play at your own pace, but for someone like me who loves checking things off lists, I couldn’t stop myself from going as hard as possible to efficiently progress through all of my tasks. If nothing else, it kept me super engaged the whole time, although part of me felt like the game was insecure that I wouldn’t find enough to do on my own.
You can also have up to five or six pretty involved tasks going at the same time, and as someone who struggles with multitasking, I did find it a bit overwhelming at times. This issue isn’t helped by the fact that everything in the game has a silly name — little springs you use to build things are called nurnies, for example — so I would often have to keep checking what it is I was actually looking for in the first place.
Thankfully, though, I happen to love the foraging aspect of these types of games, and boy howdy, a ton of Ooblets is running around and collecting stuff. If that isn’t your thing, you might get a bit frustrated, I’m not gonna lie.
A few hours into the game, you meet a local named Gimble who owns a hot air balloon. After repairing it with a whole slew of supplies, she can take the player to different regions of Oob, where they’ll gather more supplies, partake in dance battles, and progress the main story quest. Each region has its own unique foragables, seeds you can take home and grow on your farm, and of course, Ooblets to collect.
I found that each region had some fun theming, and I always looked forward to seeing a new place and what surprises it had to throw at me. I don’t want to give too much away, but the area called Port Forward was a real standout for me as a lover of minigames.
I was also really pleasantly surprised with the game’s main story, which really doesn’t come together until the very end. Most farming sims’ stories are pretty bare bones, but Ooblets presents you with a mystery from the very beginning — and seeing the culmination of that mystery in the game’s last few hours is a blast.
Another element that gets added later is your very own store, where you can sell items that you collect, build, or cook, and it’s easily the best way to earn money in the game. Of course you can upgrade and decorate your shop over time, too. Once I reached this point, I got that feeling again that there’s a little too much going on in the game, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker by any means.
Overall, Ooblets absolutely met the expectations I had built up for it over those six long years of waiting. If you love the farming/community sim genre, it’s an absolute must-play, and I think it’ll be a game that sticks around for years to come.
I played it on PC for this review, and I’m looking forward to trying out some mods that the community will cook up, but I have to say that this is a perfect Switch game. In fact, after I go back and drive this save file into the ground, I plan on buying the Switch version to replay all over again, much like I did with Stardew. Gotta support the indie games you love, right?
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]