Don't be fooled by that adorable bird wearing a monocle, Ooblets is a serious game. Its candy-coloured world and jaunty muzak give the impression that this is just a light-hearted little adventure, but then it's 2am and you have a meeting in the morning and yet you still just need to find one more obsidian stone so you can upgrade your oobcoop. Ooblets is the farming and creature collecting sim we've all been desperate for since the first trailer appeared and stole our hearts, way back in 2016. Now we can finally explore it for ourselves, and - even in its Early Access form - it's just what we hoped for.
The game starts out like so many of these sims do, you arrive in a new town and - in a blatant disregard for property law - end up with a home and farm to tend to. You can grow crops, cook, weed, till the soil, decorate, and generally potter about until you're so tired your character droops like a wilting plant. The twist here is that along with the Stardew Valley set up, you're also sorted into a house, Harry Potter style, and given your first ooblet. Mine was a greenish little guy called Tud, who looks like the bastard child of an alien and mushroom. A few hours in, and I had a small army of sentient tree stumps, funghi, birds, and goth candy corns and I loved them all.
Ooblets aren't just cute pets, they're also ferocious dancers. Dance is the combat of the world of Oob, and the key to collecting new types of creatures and completing quests. The dance battles work much like a Pokemon battle, you get a certain amount of beats to spend per turn, and have to hit a certain number of points against the other team - say 20 - before they do the same to you. Unlike Pokemon, the moves you can choose from change, with different move cards dealt to you during the match, which keeps you on your toes. You can earn new cards by leveling up ooblets and buy them from various clubhouses, but the one thing they all have in common is ridiculous cuteness. Defeat is just easier when it's because a walking radish waved its butt at you.
Once you've got a few ooblets, you can leave them on the farm to weed, clear stones, and water crops. They'll need an oobcoop, but in return, you get to see them in a little straw hat so it's worth every resource. Oobcoops also increase the numbers of ooblets you can have, and at the rate you'll be collecting them, prepare for your farm to take on the vibe of a busy city block. Days become a giddy blur of tending to crops, then heading into town to see what quests and demands the locals have of you. Some need help with resources to build a clubhouse, someone else just had a hankering for a certain type of shell, the local scientist will pay you to be allowed to scan any new ooblets you collect. I fixed up a hot air balloon and could head to a new world for more battles, more species, and new crops to sell back home. Gummies, one of the game's currencies, are essential for buying new seeds, clothes, and furniture. Completing quests and earning badges will give you wishes, which can be spent at the well to unlock upgrades and new recipes.
Home sweet home
Personally, more than the combat, I just loved spending time in the world. Home base is Badgetown, a collection shops, cozy homes, clubhouses and lovable weirdos – the old lady who is definitely a murderer, the strange dancing clown called Taffy, the socially anxious clothing retailer. All the residents will have jobs they need help with, and even just chatting to them every day will earn you friendship stickers and rewards. Why don't more of my real-life friends ever give me stickers? There's always a long to-do list that you can keep track of in the bottom left of your screen, and while some goals took time to achieve, there was always something I could do for a little hit of dopamine. That was also the danger, there's always just one more thing to do before you log off and go to bed. I mean, what sort of monster would leave their lumpstump without a monocle?
It is worth remembering that this is an Early Access version of the game, so there's a hint of still under construction now and again. Nothing truly heinous like melting ooblets, just the odd glitch in the matrix. A save that wouldn't load until I reinstalled the game, a world failing to load as I moved from one area to the next, ooblets wandering through walls like little ghosts. Even with these caveats, the price of entry is well worth it to just spend some time in this world as soon as possible. Being mad at Ooblets would be like being mad at a puppy that was so excited to see you it peed on the carpet. For all it's Early Access hiccups, the world is a little bit of a better place for Ooblets being in it.
Ooblets is out now in Early Access on PC and Xbox One. For more farming fun, check out 12 games like Stardew Valley that’ll keep you working on the farm until the cows come home.