Developer: Monomi Park – Publisher: Monomi Park – Platforms: Xbox One, PC – Release Date: August 1, 2017
At A Glance
Vacuum up smiley-face blobs using a big ol’ gun.
Upon Further Inspection
A first-person farming simulator that tasks you to raise adorable slime creatures and expand your ranch.
What’s The Story?
Beatrix LeBeau is a slime rancher. As her occupation suggests, she captures and raises sentient slime creatures on a distant planet. The plot is minimal and Beatrix herself doesn’t speak. Communications received from fellow ranchers and Beatrix’s literal star-crossed lover flesh out the narrative, which works just fine for something like this. Players learn enough about the world to gain an interest without getting in the way of the real attraction: farming slimes.
How Does It Look?
Bright, cheery, and simple. Romping around Slime Rancher’s world can dispel bad moods instantly. The “aww” inducing slimes are flaunt some cool designs, especially flashier species such as the prism-like Mosaics. Nothing about Slime Rancher’s presentation will floor your eyeballs, but it will massage the stress out of them (that probably makes sense).
How Does It Sound?
Catchy tunes abound and the slimes’ jolly emotes will warm the cockles of even the most frigid of hearts. Even still, if you looked up “great podcast game” in the fictional gaming dictionary, a picture of Slime Rancher would sit beside it. Don’t feel ashamed if you decide to mute the volume in favor of your favorite on-air personality or music album.
How Fun Is It?
Slime Rancher offers a ton fun and can be both engrossing and relaxing. Capturing slimes is as simple as pulling a trigger; the challenge comes in farming them effectively to maximize the production of plorts, crystal currency that slimes drop after eating.
Slimes have distinct behaviors, dietary preferences, and special abilities. Rock slimes sport jagged bodies and can harm Beatrix by barreling towards her. Rad slimes surround themselves with a radioactive aura, meaning you can’t stay near them for too long. Working around these quirks and figuring out the most accommodating ranch layout (for example, the shy Puddle slimes won’t produce plorts if they near too many other slimes) is a labor of love I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did. There’s a supreme sense of pride in planning everything just right, keeping slimes happy, and raking in profits of success.
The game’s primary strength lies in always giving players something meaningful to work towards. Slime pen upgrades, such as auto-feeders, reduce manual babysitting. An unlockable science lab allows the construction teleporters, automatic mining machines, and other tools of convenience. Beatrix’s storage can be increased to carry greater resources and slimes. The more you unlock, the smoother everything runs, which means you’ll farm more plorts to buy more stuff. It’s an addictive and satisfying loop that kept me playing late into the night under the typically false promise of “just one more upgrade and I’ll turn in”
Along with efficiency, farming encourages experimentation. Crossbreeding slimes to create larger variations, and produce the plorts of both species, has a fun mad scientist vibe. Tinkering around has little consequence. If something goes awry (like slimes accidentally evolving into all-consuming Tarrs), starting over is as easy as cleaning out cages.
The first-person gameplay feels stimulating and, in a way, masked the fact I was playing a farming game. Hopscotching boulders and sailing over cliffs on a jetpack provides an element of dynamic adventure I wouldn’t expect from this genre. Plus capturing slimes with the vacuum is oddly satisfying–especially the pumping sound when you fire them back out.
Slime Rancher’s happy-go-lucky flow can hit a buzzsaw called death. Getting mauled by feral slimes or falling into the slime sea causes Beatrix to lose everything she carries and restart from the ranch the following morning. Though I never died by unfair means, this severe penalty was a huge and frustrating blow whenever I was knee-deep in resources in a far off area. Sometimes, it caused me to put the game down entirely. My enjoyment always came from exploring and farming, as well as making my own challenges. The danger aspects added little to the experience other than being an annoying obstacle.
Simply running the farm has its rewards, but as an objective-minded player, I’m happy Slime Rancher features a clear end game and side goals. Seeing the credits requires finding keys to unlock new areas. Additionally, there’s a terminal that tasks Beatrix with delivering an assortment of resources in exchange for a fair amount of money and items. This particular activity lost its appeal once my operation ran full steam and plorts were pouring in, but it offers a decent distraction in the early game.
I’ve never played any type of farming simulator, so the fact that I loved Slime Rancher is a pleasant surprise. Monomi Park has crafted a fun chill pill with quite a bit of depth. The satisfying loop kept me engaged and flexibility in how you farm creates a strong sense of ownership. Death can put a damper on things, but not enough to discourage me from coming back each day. And, of course, the slimes themselves are a delight. If you enjoy these types of experiences, Slime Rancher’s a no-brainer. Newcomers like myself could be in for an unexpected treat should they decide to give the seemingly unassuming game a shot.