Ooblets first launched on PC more than two years ago. It wasn’t particularly advertised or marketed well, but it did get a ton of word of mouth thanks to the drama surrounding its platform exclusivity and a Tweet taken out of context.
The drama surrounding the launch was very ironic considering how remarkably chill the game was. Here’s the story if you’re new to Ooblets. You play as someone moving away from the humdrum of everyday life in the regular world to a new town where a dilapidated plot of land lays before you in dire need of TLC. While fixing up your landscape you befriend the people of your town, do odd jobs, and maybe run into some bizarre creatures.
In this case, these bizarre creatures are called Ooblets. These tiny little adorable beasties live alongside the island community I can only describe as if the people of Seattle and Portland had a child and that child bought a private island.
The Ooblets themselves are small creatures rarely taller than knee high that love befriending and helping the humans that live around them. They create a bit of a Pokemon-like mechanic where you want to find “’em all,” including their off-color and glistening variants. But unlike Pokemon, these ones don’t want to hurt each other. Instead, they compete in sudden dance battles. A boombox will be dropped, Ooblets will gather around to watch, and both sides will compete via a fun card game that gains complexity over time.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still the questionable treatment of these creatures as you get them to work for free on your farm. I’m not even going to get into the concept of moving to a new land, gathering up the living beings I’ve recently discovered, and getting them to work in my fields. If you made it past Junior High you can already feel it.
Luckily, they do seem damned happy about it. So that’s good.
As for the main gameplay loop, it’s best described as Steven Universe without the conflict. The music sounds like the kind of music Steven would walk down the boardwalk to. The creatures seem like a mix betwixt something cute from that show and Adventure Time. And mostly you’re just going to focus on whatever you want to. While there is a stamina meter and a time for bed, there’s no real calendar in the game so you’re not going to have to really worry too much about your virtual life getting away from you.
Snide comments aside, this game is remarkably soothing. The simple gameplay loop, the ability to go at my own pace, the chill music and bright color scheme — all of this combines into something that feels like stimming. It was satisfying for no reason beyond it just feeling like it was.
Unfortunately, there’s a fairly heavy problem that stops it from being a go-to relax game. Despite this game being out elsewhere on other platforms, this game has bugs for days on Nintendo Switch. Bugs so bad I had to completely close out of the game and reopen it.
For example, the most important piece of furniture you own in the game is your bed. You need that to mark the end of the day, refill your energy, and start the next chapter of your life. So when I bought a new bed, cleared out my old bed, and then encountered an issue where the game just would not let me open the menu with my furniture so I could place my new bed, I panicked. I tried figuring it out for a while with the game letting me know that if I don’t sleep soon, my character would be exhausted the next day. Eventually, I saved, closed the game, reopened it, and found I could suddenly access my furniture inventory.
A similar thing happened when I needed to turn in some items to an NPC. I looked everywhere for her only to eventually discover where she was. She was on the other side of a gate that couldn’t be opened yet. Half stuck in a wall too far away for me to interact with. Again, I saved, closed the game out, reopened it, and found her walking the street acting like she wasn’t just pulling some Kitty Pryde nonsense a minute ago.
Hopefully, this is all stuff that gets resolved in a day one patch as the game, upon loading, proudly lets you know you’re playing Ooblets version 1.0.0. So I have to imagine there’s a patch en route. But as for right now, this potentially relaxing game makes me want to chuck my switch into the lake whenever I’m making good progress and have to close it out. Especially with the fact that the game has really long load times.
The title screen itself requires about a solid one or two minutes of staring at a gif. Walking to the next part of a map or into a building can sometimes take 20-30 seconds. And while you can deal with it, let me tell you when you do that thing where you leave your farm and forgot you left something so you immediately turn around and go back, is infuriating when that equals you being punished with a solid minute of black screen.
Long story short, Ooblets has a lot of potential to be a great, calming Switch game. It’s something I’d love to take with me to get coffee or just lay in bed and enjoy. But as for right now, the game is really buggy and if you’re like me, trying to find a game to calm you, this might not be the best choice. A lot of the frustrations with having to stop the gameplay loop and spend the next five minutes saving and turning the game on and off again can completely defeat what I imagined many are going to be going to this game for.
Ooblets (Nintendo Switch) Score: 6.5/10
Ooblets has the potential to be a fantastic and calming game to fill the void lack of Animal Crossing updates. But long load times and numerous bugs turn what should be an adorable and relaxing game into a frustrating experience.
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