Ooblets will be familiar to anyone who read impressions of this kooky indie title when it released in early access on Xbox One and PC in July 2020. Even in its unfinished state, the game was lauded for its quirky style and its strange blend of genres: a farm simulator with monster collecting and card-based dance battles. Sure, why not?
The game's unusual humor, music, and art fit somewhere between the more chill vibes of Animal Crossing and the mellower side of Katamari Damacy. The names of the crops, items, and Ooblet monsters sound like something Dan Harmon might come up with. So if this review starts reading like the Rick and Morty commercial for a Plumbus, that's by design. With developer Glumberland finally ready to release version 1.0 of Ooblets, does it live up to its potential or buckle under the weight of carrying multiple genres at once?
You're just a nooblet
Like many farming sims, you start off as a nobody with no money and no skills, hoping to start a new life away from your stuffy hometown. You travel by boat to the mainland of Oob, where the cheerful Mayor Tinstle, surprised at both your poverty and lack of knowledge of Ooblets, gifts you a ramshackle farmhouse. She recommends that you swiftly join one of four Ooblet clubs - Peaksnubs, Frunbuns, Mimpins, or Frunbuns - which decides your starter monster. But it's not all charity, though. In exchange for her assistance, she asks that you help her restore Badgetown's former glory in the eyes of the Ooblet High Council.
It will likely take you several in-game days to get your bearings, if just to get all the names of things sorted. Like Stardew Valley, you have a limited amount of time and energy to complete your daily tasks. Clearing rocks, weeds, and logs will earn you nurnies and planklets as well as open farmland to plant muz, sweetiebeeties, caroots, and more. After watering your crops over several days, you can sell them back in stores or in bulk at Penny's for extra gummies so you can buy more seeds at Meed's, clothing at Kibbonbon's, or furniture at Manatwee's.
Beyond farming chores, there's plenty to do around the small, offbeat town. Speaking with most of the residents in Badgetown and occasionally completing personal quests for them will net you friendship points. Over time, your "frenz" will award you friendship stickers along with bonus resources just for hanging out.
If you have the extra energy, you can gather more resources by shaking trees, foraging mushrooms, collecting seashells, and accepting minor objectives at the Wildlands. Or if you're running out of energy, you can eat food or take a short nap. By the dock, you can "reconstitoot" useless items into slurry that can be used to make fishing bait, which will get you random resources from the ocean. Whatever you choose to do, the game will usually award you with experience points for it after you head to bed.
The small set of tools and crops makes farming easier here than in Stardew Valley. Even NPC interaction is simpler as there are no romance options or involved relationship-based cutscenes. But Ooblets largely gets away with this by being lighthearted and witty, making self-effacing, observational, tongue-in-cheek jokes. The game doesn't take itself seriously and openly tells you to take your time. While having to review a game like this by a set embargo date isn't exactly conducive to chillaxing, I still found moments to settle down and not try to wring out the clock for every last second until bedtime.
Battles are a solemn oobligation
Where the game falls short is in the card battles, which could use more refinement and offer more control in deck-building. The basic concept is easy enough to understand. Every turn you draw cards and play them by using beats as a resource, with higher-value cards awarding more points. Earn a set number of points before your opponent does, or have a higher point total by the end of a match, and you win.
Where Ooblets come into play is that each one comes with signature cards that are added to your common deck. Once they reach Level 6, all three of their signature cards will be unlocked. This gives you a lot of variety in terms of squad building, as you can mix and match Ooblets to craft a deck that can cover each other's weaknesses. Near the mid-game, you can also add special single-use cards from clubhouses.
However, one main problem is that, for whatever reason, you can't view your deck in its entirety. There's no tab in the menu that lets you see the contents of your common deck, nor is there a way to get rid of cards from your deck either permanently or temporarily. This means that an Ooblet with even one signature card that's weak or too specific can clog your hand. Single-use cards you're hoping to save for a boss fight can also be drawn, wasting space. The game may have tried to be a simpler version of Slay the Spire or Inscryption, but the relative lack of deck creation severely limits the card battling.
Effect stacking can cause balance issues as well. It’s unclear whether this is meant to be a bug or a feature, but status effects can get out of control very easily. Hype increases the point values of all your cards by one point, while fluster decreases it by one. So you can easily see how stacking hype on your side and fluster on the opponent’s side can outright win you the match. Cards that steal points are overpowered too.
Most of the dance battles are almost comically easy just by using hype and fluster. Opponents don't know how to play cards in the right order or at the right time either, and you always have the advantage of going first. Battling Ooblets in the wild is also a breeze because their common deck is weaker than yours. In total, I only lost seven battles near the end of the main story and in certain special matches in the Dance Barn. And that’s with using a team of very early Ooblets like Bittle, Clippyclaws, and two Lumpstumps.
However, the difficulty swings wildly as you get closer to the final sections of the story, which feature several overpowered cards. There are some that can stun your Ooblet for several turns, which is a death knell in a 1v1 match. Not only can you do nothing on your turn, but the opponent can redraw the stun card again, effectively locking you out of the match. Then there are cards that can make you lose a beat every round or have you draw one fewer card for the rest of the battle without any way for you to counter them. So if you get a few of these stacked on you, you might as well concede. While card battles are too easy and should be more of a challenge, these are just cheap ways to do it.
Oobtaining it all is tough
Overall, progression in the game is stronger for farming than monster gathering. Getting new Ooblets is harder than it needs to be, as starting a dance battle with them requires that you have a specific item they like. Sometimes it’s a crop you can grow or an item you can find, but many times it’s a food you don’t have the recipe for. Again, you can beat the game using early monsters from Badgetown, but this is still deflating when it happens. And it feels even worse when the Ooblet you’re missing out on is the super-rare “gleamy” version of itself. It’s like finding a shiny Pokemon in Pokemon Go and being unable to get to it because there's a literal roadblock in your way.
As you begin to collect clothlets and oobsidians, you can construct Oobcoops for more space for Ooblets, some automated sprinkler systems, and equipment that can mill or liquify base crops. Completing daily goals and earning badges gives you Wishies, which similar to Satisfaction Points in The Sims 4, can be spent on various perks like learning new blueprints, walking faster, expanding your farm, and boosting your energy bar. Once you have your farm running like clockwork, you’ll have the extra time and resources to finish the main storyline.
Helping Tinstle eventually has you going to other regions of Oob, giving you access to more lucrative seeds and a different set of Ooblets. Worth noting are Hyberglob crops that give you an extraordinary energy boost when eaten, and about halfway through the story, you'll reach one particular area of the map that opens up a daily job for a lot of extra gummies. Better yet, the fourth region features a lot of throwback mini-games that are all worth playing and is easily the best side area in the game.
Completing each region usually means doing dance battles or a short fetch quest, but more than a few times you’re required to backtrack. Unless you have the items on hand (and you probably won’t), you’ll need to go all the way to the start of the area, travel back home, get all the materials to craft or cook something, and then head back. The worst offender is sadly the last region on the map, which forces you to backtrack three or four times in a row. It's just boring and obnoxious.
Another oversight is that gaining levels for your character and your Ooblets effectively stops after level six. After that point, Ooblets don’t gain any more signature cards and additional levels only make them use some farm equipment marginally faster. Likewise, your character unlocks new options for Wishies up to level six, but beyond that, there doesn’t seem to be any noticeable difference like increased max energy or something. As such, growth feels strangely stunted.
Ooblets is a peculiarly enjoyable jack-of-all-trades adventure that stumbles near the finish line. The slice-of-life farming sim and town interaction are more developed than the card battling, and the leveling system feels unfinished. That said, the game may expand with additional content or balance patches as the developer continues to update it. Priced at half the cost of a typical full-fledged game, Ooblets is still worth playing for a few hours or so every once in a while, but there are better farming sims, monster battlers, and card-based games out there.
This review is based on a Nintendo Switch copy supplied by the publisher. Ooblets releases on September 1, 2022 for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC.
- Simple, calming farm simulator
- Quirky, offbeat humor
- Offbeat music and art
- Adorable Ooblets
- Lovable town with kooky characters
- Card battling is too easy and unrefined
- Some overpowered cards near endgame
- Lack of deck-building options
- Several backtracking objectives