Gourdlets is a lovable, stress-relieving city-builder

This delightful simulator is not about points nor objectives, but merely the joy of creating a charming town.


Sometimes all you need is a box of cute Lego bricks to have fun. Gourdlets, a city-builder developed by Preethi Vaidyanathan under the AuntyGames name, gives you the tools to create a town upon the ocean and populate it with Pikmin-like creatures that simply want to chill and be adorable. It’s a quaint, calming simulator that doesn’t ask you to complete objectives other than those you make yourself. At the Day of the Devs showcase in San Francisco during GDC 2024, I was able to play a beta demo of the game. And compared to what I saw of Gourdlets a year ago, it has made a solid amount of progress.

Just chill and enjoy life

Gourdlets Preview Town Building
From houses and lakes, to garden patches and baby trees, everything in Gourdlets is totally adorbs.

SOURCE: AuntyGames

In a nod to Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away, Gourdlets begins with a flat region of water with a long train track beneath the surface. A small railroad station on a patch of land forms a starting point for expanding more terrain to shape the initial boundary of your town. Then without having to worry about resources or materials, you can plop down trees, paths, and buildings as you see fit. So long as there's enough space, you can drag houses, cafes, laundromats, hotels, schools, and more right onto the field. Most of the objects are colored in light pastels and soft hues in a palette that might remind you of Yoshi’s Woolly World and Monument Valley. So whatever town you create will most likely look cotton-candy cute.

Once you’re ready for a few citizens, you may signal a train to arrive and watch a gourdlet step off into the neighborhood. Unlike Sims, they don't have any particular needs or wants that you have to take care of, like hunger, thirst, or sleep. All you need to look out for, just so you don’t miss it, are any playful interactions that they have with any objects you have placed and with any other gourdlets milling about in the community. They will sit next to a campfire, open an umbrella if it’s raining, make sandcastles, and even fish off the side of a platform.

A bushel and a peck and some in a gourdlet

Gourdlets Preview Beach Sand Castle
Pour some sand and watch the gourdlets make some castles.

SOURCE: AuntyGames

It’s fair to ask whether Gourdlets technically counts as a game, since there aren’t any clear-cut goals. A short tutorial is planned with some tasks that you can check off, but apart from that, it’s essentially a tabula rasa. The reason behind this sandbox design choice is to focus on slice-of-life creativity. Some players like to experience games like Stardew Valley, The Sims, and Spiritfarer without worrying about farming, leveling, and gaining experience points, and Gourdlets caters to that sentiment.

The demo I tried was still very much an early build (in fact, it was version 0.0.1), so there’s plenty of content that the developer has in store. Most of this will be asset creation, controller support, and the ability to share save files. On the possibility of Steam Workshop or some way for players to create and share buildings, objects, and animations of their own, the developer said she would explore those options.

Gourdlets is expected to release in 2024 for PC with ports to other platforms on the table at a future date. A free demo of the game is available on Steam.

This preview is based on a beta demo of the game available at the Day of the Devs: San Francisco Edition during GDC 2024.

Contributing Editor

Once upon a time, Nick's parents confiscated his Super Nintendo because he was "playing it too much." He has secretly sworn revenge ever since. Nick is now a freelance writer for various video game sites. Powered by iced green tea, he typically plays RPGs of all kinds like Shin Megami Tensei, Elder Scrolls, and Fallout. In his spare time, he follows the latest season of Critical Role.

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