Despite an extended stay in Game Preview, Ooblets' 1.0 launch has been plagued with glitches. Still, the charmingly quirky game developed by a small indie studio is hard not to love.
- + Card/dance battles
- + Creatively wholesome
- + Great soundtrack for dance battles
- − Game-breaking glitch in player shops
- − Extra locations have low replay value
Ooblets first crossed my radar when it was announced in 2017. At the time, the husband-and-wife duo that makes up Glumberland were planning to publish the game under Double Fine in 2018. Double Fine was ultimately acquired by Microsoft before the game was finished, however, leading Glumberland to strike a deal with Epic for the PC version. Eventually, Ooblets saw the light of day thanks to a Game Preview launch.
As of Sept. 1, Ooblets has hit 1.0 and is officially released as a full game. As part of that proper launch, players on Xbox received an update that included achievements, additional areas to explore, and the conclusion to the game’s story. That official launch, however, also came with a much higher price tag than the game had while in Game Preview. That leads to the question as to whether or not this card-battling, slice-of-life, farming and management simulator has enough adorable creatures to collect to match that price tag.
Ooblets: What you’ll like
When describing a video game with a rambling smash up of genres, it’s fair to assume that the game would feel disjointed and directionless. Ooblets somehow manages to try on all of its genres while still making them all feel like cohesive elements of one game that complement one another. Players create their character, are given a bit of backstory about how they wind up in Badgetown, and then in a move that is similar to other games in the farming simulator and slice-of-life genres (namely Stardew Valley), they are given a little house with a piece of land that is in desperate need of care.
The residents of Badgetown are followed by unusual little creatures known as ooblets, and the player themself can interact with the wild ooblets running amok in the town. The hitch is that these wild ooblets require certain items or foods to get their attention — though you can pet them free of charge at any time. Should the player have the necessary items in their inventory, they can challenge the ooblets to a dance battle. This is where card battling comes into the equation.
The cards available during the dance battle are dependent on the type of ooblets that are making up the squad. Each ooblet variety has different signature cards available to them, and more are unlocked as the ooblet is leveled up through dance battles. Dance-offs will feature a set number of points needed for victory, and the two teams will square off by choosing cards to rack up points while also hindering the opposing team with stuns, fluster, and trepidations. The first team to reach the point goal wins. If the player’s team is the winner, then they can choose to receive a seed from the opposing team’s lead ooblet. Growing that seed adds the ooblet to the player’s farm, and the cycle of farming to craft items that can entice ooblets into dance battles so you can collect more ooblets comes full circle.
It’s not all treabies and dance battles, however, as Badgetown is a lively town full of curious characters that players can interact with. Residents of the town will occasionally have quests for the player to carry out, such as finding missing ooblets or bringing them specific items. Carrying out these quests, as well as just chatting with the residents will build friendship within the community, unlocking badges and stickers for the player. Unlike similar games in the wholesome community hero genre, however, Ooblets forgoes having any sort of romance or wedding goals. Your character's focus is primarily on reconnecting the town, whose residents are at risk of being evicted by the Ooblet High Council, to the Oobnet and saving everybody’s home.
Ooblets: What you won’t like
In this day and age players expect bugs at the launch of a new game. Unfortunately, a game that has spent an extended period of time in Game Preview and had a consistent flow of feedback from avid players should probably not be too broken once it goes 1.0. Ooblets, sadly, has a few issues to overcome despite its years-long development. On the one hand, it feels a bit unfair to hold Ooblets’ issues over the launch. It’s a product developed by a tiny studio consisting of a husband-and-wife duo that is as ambitious as it is charming. Looking back at original gifs and videos of where Ooblets began, it is striking to see the differences compared to its final launch state. However, there are key features of the game that are in desperate need of attention and patches.
The most problematic issue is with the player-controlled shop, which randomly locks the player inside. The current work around for this issue involves the player crashing the game to the Xbox dashboard, relaunching the game, and starting a new save file. From there, you’ll create a new character, rewatch the opening cutscene, and then quit to the dashboard a second time. After that, the player should be able to reload their original save file and exit the shop. The Ooblets discord goes so far as to recommend players no longer enter the shop again as the glitch is more likely to persist if it happens once. Glitches and bugs are a fact of gaming, but it is disappointing that the solution to an issue at launch is to advise players not to use an entire segment of the game until a patch is available.
Thankfully the shop is not all there is to do in Ooblets, and there’s plenty of farming and exploration to keep the player busy otherwise. However, it is worth noting that the various areas that players can visit outside of Badgetown are much smaller than the initial area. Outlying areas that can be reached by hot air balloon such as Nullwhere and Mamoonia help carry the story along, but the locations themselves are surprisingly linear and small. Port Forward, a carnival-themed boardwalk with a variety of arcade games that was added during Early Access, offers the biggest shake-up to Ooblets’ gameplay. Revisiting most of the outlying areas feels unnecessary unless you’re specifically attempting to catch all of the available ooblets.
Ooblets: Should you buy it?
Despite its mishmash of genres, Ooblets really caters itself to one specific player niche — the cozy collectors. The game’s overarching plot is one we’ve seen and heard plenty of times before, but the world itself and the creatures that live in it are what you’re visiting Badgetown for, anyway. The charming aesthetic with its vibrant colors and quirky residents is more than enough reason to visit Badgetown on their own. The dance battle soundtrack will have even the most stoic gamer bouncing along to the beats while smiling at the absurdity of this delightful world that Glumberland has created.
Even with the struggles caused by bugs and glitches, I couldn’t help but feel like the accomplishment of placing my final ooblet statue in Town Hall was bittersweet. Ooblets was one of my most anticipated releases for 2022, even making my list of hidden gems from Summer Games Fest. While the game certainly has its flaws, it was still a showcase of the creative potential that even the tiniest indie studios can offer gaming.
Create your own character and embark on a charmingly eccentric adventure to save Badgetown. Decorate your home while managing your shop and farm as you craft your way into epic dance battles against unusual critters that you can then grow for yourself.
Cole is the resident Call of Duty know-it-all and indie game enthusiast for Windows Central. She's a lifelong artist with two decades of experience in digital painting, and she will happily talk your ear off about budget pen displays.
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