Normally, games that have a very cutesy aesthetic make me very wary. It might not seem fair, but when a game looks like it may appeal to my daughters, I worry that the developers may have focused too much emphasis on the aesthetic and not enough on the gameplay or longevity of that gameplay. But I can say, beyond any shadow of a doubt that Slime Rancher does not have these issues.
Don’t let the cute slimes or ridiculous amounts of bright colors fool you, Slime Rancher is not just ‘another kiddie game’. It actually surprised me how easy it was for me, my fiancé, my kids, and even my friends (20-something guys, for reference) to get into this little gem. There’s simply a little bit of everything for everyone! For my kids and fiancé, there are bright colors, pretty environments, and (obviously) lots of adorable slimes. For me and my friends, there are tons of choices to be made, micro-managing to be done, secrets to be uncovered, and even an in-game ‘plort’ market for us to use any way we’d like. It’s this wonderful amount of variety in content that made my friend go out and purchase the game after playing the game for the first time and taking over my living room for FOUR HOURS.
Soon after starting the game up, players are met with an upbeat song that helps set the tone for most of the game. Other than when the terrifying Tarr attack, the game is upbeat and bubbly. The Tarr appear at night or when a Largo eats the wrong kind of plort. To cover it quickly, slimes make plorts when they eat food. If a slime eats a plort that is from a different type of slime, it will turn into a Largo. Largos are complicated and interesting, but offer greater rewards than normal slimes. If one of these Largos eats another plort that is not one of the two types it is made up of, it will turn into a Tarr. The Tarr are one of the only enemies in the game, but they can quickly tear up an inexperienced Rancher’s slime ranch.
Each player will create their own ranch that is unique to them. This may seem unlikely, but once you realize there are something like 20 ranch plots available for players to use, it becomes a little easier to believe. Since slimes will need food, players may want to plant gardens or make a chicken coop or even pond for a certain special slime. Every plot can be used for whatever a player wants, making a wide array of choices available. On top of picking which plots will serve what purpose, each plot can be upgraded in various ways. For example, corrals can be given high walls, an automatic plort collector, or even a solar shield. This kind of upgrading is also available for our character, who is equipped with a special vacuum tool for dealing with everything and anything they may encounter. Some player upgrades include health increases, dash boots, and vacuum tank capacity upgrades.
In order to complete most tasks, players will use their vacuum tool and large green buttons spread throughout the ranch. Gameplay is relatively simple and not terribly difficult to get a handle on. To make things even easier, there is the very helpful and aptly named Slimepedia. The Slimepedia has information on everything a player encounters and can be used to figure out the best way to care for each type of slime in the game. I made the mistake of ignoring this useful tool until I had already explored most of the current game world. I think that part of the reason I did this was because the game does a fabulous job of pacing gameplay to match a players comfort with the game. For me, it took several in-game days to get fully acquainted with all of my responsibilities on my ranch. On the flip side, my friend only took about one day to become fully comfortable and secure in his role as a Slime Rancher.
Slime Rancher is a bright, colorful, inviting, and overall awesome game. I wouldn’t say the game doesn’t have room to improve, but my complaints are so tiny compared to all of my praises. These complaints may only be around because the game is still in Game Preview, but I feel I should still mention them. During my time with the game, I experienced this issue where I’d get stuck on walls nearly all the time. Eventually, I learned to walk in the center of paths and this wasn’t as big an issue, but it shouldn’t be an issue in the first place. There’s also the annoyance of only being able to put four DIFFERENT types of items in your vacuum tanks. Personally, I would have loved to be able to fill all my tanks with one item, but I suppose it’s more of an annoyance than a big problem. Finally, there is simply no true goal once you’re done exploring the world in the game. Once you’ve seen all the slimes and environments, it feels like there isn’t a point to ranching your slimes, but I believe that will be fixed with the eventual full release of the game. I have a lot of faith in the team behind this game as they have delivered an experience I had tons of fun with.
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