When you win a dance battle in Ooblets—because dance-offs are how these particular collectible monsters compete—you get a chance to collect a seed from the leader of the other team. But rather than snatching the spoils from a vanquished foe, or ensnaring them in a little ball, you give a slightly dejected-looking ooblet a pat on the head and tell them they did a good job. All cheered up, they drop a seed as thanks—take it back to your farm, plant it, and in a few days you’ll have a new ooblet of your very own.
That little exchange is symbolic of Ooblets as a whole: a mashup of Pokemon and Harvest Moon, with the cottagecore and an eccentric breed of twee, whimsical humour dialled all the way up. Growing new critters through a farming sim was always a curious prospect, and it’s one that Glumberland have really hit the mark with, but it’s the whole vibe built around that idea that truly defines Ooblets.
It’s the quaint, small-town charm of your typical farm life sim, laced through a pastel decor and a linguistic aesthetic where fishing is called “sea dangling”, coffee is “bean juice”, and chillis are “spicyspears””. The mayor of Badgetown is a kid in a rainbow top hat who spends most of her time doing a goofy little dance in the town square (though she is, nonetheless, committed to the wellbeing of the town and townsfolk), travelling to different areas of Oob is done primarily by hot air balloon, and there’s an epidemic of old mystery cans appearing randomly around town. The oddball ramblings of the game’s quirky residents often read like snippets of Weird Twitter. Each time you earn an in-game achievement, you get a special letter from the mayor’s ooblet; after a dozen or so of these increasingly bizarre notes, they start resorting to simply “summthin sumthan bagdge. u urnd! congrat ok. Dictated but not read.”
It’s a mood and sense of humour that will be very divisive, I’d imagine—you’ll either love it or hate it, depending on your tolerance (or appreciation) of a slightly manic, internet-fuelled whimsy. I love it, personally, but whatever side of the fence you land on, but what can’t be denied is how well it all comes together to give Ooblets its sense of identity, taking influence from a lot of places and turning that into something that feels like a particularly wholesome fever dream. Not everyone will like its, but Ooblets absolutely finds it jam and runs with it.
That extends to the ways it remixes familiar mechanics and ideas, too. At first glance, the farming looks a lot like what you find in Story of Seasons, Stardew Valley, or any other such games: till some tiled fields, plant your crops, water them each day, then harvest and sell them when they’re ready. It’s a timeless formula that doesn’t really need much tweaking, but with a couple of little twists, Ooblets changes the dynamics of that loop in surprising ways.
Usually, in these games, time is measured in days, at least for the purposes of farming. You plant your crops one day, and on the morning of the Xth day afterwards, they’ll be ready to harvest. If you plant a bunch of crops with the same growth time on the same day, even at different times that day, they’ll all be ready at the same time. Likewise for watering: you water a crop once a day, and regardless of what time you do that, it’ll be dry when you wake up the following morning.
In Ooblets, on the other hand, farm time is continuous. Plant a seed, care for it diligently, and it’ll be ready to harvest a few days later—at the same time that you planted it initially. Spend half a day planting, and all those crops will pop up in succession, rather than all at once. Water dries up in the same way, and any time a crop is left dry—even a couple of minutes—pushes out the time it’ll take to become ready. Weeds can slow growth, too, while various other factors can speed things up.
It may seem like a little detail, but what it means is that instead of the orderly, robotic rhythm of the typical farm life sim, maintaining a farm in Ooblets quickly becomes chaotic. I tend to be meticulous in these games, neatly arranging my fields and growing similar crops together for the sake of efficiency (and the satisfying display as they grow). In Ooblets, I literally just plant anything anywhere: when something’s done, I rip it out, then grab another seed at random to throw in its place. Maintaining an orderly rhythm is near impossible, and the sooner you give up trying and lean into the madness, the better. It works. It makes you another one of Badgetown’s slightly deranged locals, watching over this jungle of haphazardly-placed Zinookas and Caroots. Once you resist the urge to try contain everything, it becomes its own strange little delight, and another piece of Ooblets’ eccentricity.
There’s a similar kind of energy in the way battles are framed as card-based dance-offs. It’s not a deck-builder as such, but each turn, you get a random assortment of cards based on which ooblets you’ve got in your squad with which to try and earn some points or lay the groundwork for something resembling a strategy. Each card costs a certain number of beats, and you only get so many beats per turn, and with neither leftover beats nor cards in your hand carrying over to the next turn, you basically have to make the best play you can with what’s in your hand.
Various effects, buffs, and whatnot mean it’s rarely as simple as just playing the strongest cards, and there’s a tactical aspect in forming your party, especially as your ooblet collection grows. But without much in the way of multi-turn resource management, it’s not as strategic as more “serious” card battlers, and a little more random—a fitting design for the overall mood of Ooblets. (Don’t worry, though—it’s not so luck-based or so punitive that you’re going to find yourself being buffeted around by the whims of lady luck.)
Farming, ooblet battles, and a wide array of fittingly eccentric side quests (“Please help me collect these mushrooms so I can make a dumb potion”) create the framework for Ooblets’ general flow—one that’s not unlike the usual loops of life sims. That’s important; for all its creative decisions and quirky vibe, it’s still grounded in the things that make the genre enjoyable in the first place. It’s not a game that sets out to reinvent the wheel, but one that takes that timeless foundation and finds its own little groove within it.
The result? A game that is, in so many ways, immediately familiar, yet also feels fresh and original. The mash-up of farm life sim and creature collecting is a fun one in its own right, but in Ooblets, it’s also the foundation for something else: a rather eccentric take on cottagecore whimsy and wholesome vibes, twee and irreverent in equal measure. That won’t be for everyone, but if you can appreciate the steps its dancing, this is a delightful game.