A game that looks and sounds like Ooblets — and has a name like “Ooblets” — could easily fall into the trap of being way too cutesy for its own good. That’s not the case with this creature-collecting role-playing game, which had a starring turn at Game Developers Conference 2017 as one of publisher Double Fine’s most promising indie titles on display.
Ooblets is adorable, of course; one need only watch the teaser above to see that. But playing the demo reveals that it’s got the gameplay to back that up, even in the early build we played on the GDC showfloor. The game is a mashup of monster-collecting, farming and exploring, all of which will be familiar to anyone who’s played one of the more kid-friendly examples of those genres.
On the game’s website, Ooblet’s two-person development team describes the project as “Harvest Moon meets Pokémon meets Animal Crossing meets the weird awkward people we are.” That pretty much hits the nail on the head: There’s the slow-paced crop-tending popularized by Harvest Moon (and, more recently, Stardew Valley); there’s a large village populated by some eccentric neighbors, a la Animal Crossing.
But the core of the whole experience is the monster battles, which star the titular Ooblet creatures. In the demo we played, the young protagonist slowly amasses a group of tiny animal creatures, whom she uses in turn-based battles. Although the fights are easy to get a hang of for anyone who’s played Pokémon, there are some key differences for added cuteness. The type effectiveness chart is far more simplified based on what we played, and players don’t just go ahead and catch a new Ooblet. They have to collect seeds that enemies drop and grow them in their garden instead.
That is a considerable change of pace from the usual Pokémon collect-’em-all grind, as is the rest of Ooblets’ relaxed open world. The most defining element of it all, though, is the last element that the creators threw into the game: the self-aware sense of humor that permeates every action and dialogue.
Now that farming games and monster-collecting RPGs are so commonplace, it takes something special to be set apart. That’s what Ooblets’ writing has a chance to do for the game. It’s full of solid wit, with jokes aimed directly at Twitter-loving 20-somethings who are drawn to its opening pitch.
That’s definitely a big part of why Ooblets has been trending on social media for months, well in advance of its turn at Double Fine’s GDC booth. It helps that developers Rebecca Cordingley and Ben Wasser have active Twitter presences, sharing images that are sure to tantalize anyone with a soft spot for cute things.
When it rains it pours! I'm sorry for all the Ooblets stuff taking over your timelines today. To make up for it, here's some Ooblets stuff! pic.twitter.com/0e5NGWvpJ6— Rebecca Cordingley (@nonplayercat) February 23, 2017
The game remains far away — the developers are aiming for a 2018 launch on Xbox One and Windows PC — but with an updated development log and Patreon campaign going, anyone entranced by the game’s aesthetic can keep up with the latest.
Correction: Ooblets has been in development for several months, not years. We’ve corrected the story to reflect this.