Some video games are easy to describe. You’re a soldier and you shoot things, you race against other cars, you’re a anthropomorphic cat with goggles and a time bending vacuum cleaner…
Others, like Slime Rancher, defy easy description. Monomi Park’s game is a first person space slime farming simulator. You play as Beatrix LeBeau, a rancher who has landed thousand of light years from earth on a strange alien world filled with varied terrain and a wide range of strange, adorable slime creatures.
All from first person view, you suck these slimes up with your space vacuum, and deposit them into pens to collect their poop (known as plort) and use it to buy equipment upgrades, more pens, and gain access to new areas and strange new slimes.
Early on, your farm is barren. You’ve got one pen, and a few pink slimes running about. The game teaches you how to move, and how to suck up these slimy suckers and deposit them into your corral, where they bounce around excitedly, milling over the top of each other. Feeding these fine fellows causes them to squeeze out plort, which is currency here. You suck up plort, and you toss it into a machine to get some newbucks in return.
That’s the essential feedback loop of the game. Explore, find new slimes, get more plort, upgrade your farm, unlock new areas and gear, explore more, repeat. However, Slime Rancher is so sickenly adorable and so fluorescently vibrant that you don’t really care.
The game manages to dodge a few of the pitfalls of farming and resource management type games with the fun and the character of the slimes. Running around the world sucking up slimes, gathering other creatures and food, is more compelling than these sorts of games usually managed. The excellent Stardew Valley recently revitalised the Harvest Moon type formula, and while Slime Rancher’s depth pale in comparison to the gargantuan Stardew Valley, it approaches the genre in a way that feels entirely unique and fresh.
There’s peril to be found in Slime Rancher too. You can die, and beasties out in the world called Tarrs are ready to destroy you and your slimes. If you’re not careful, you can find these Tarrs in your homestead as well. If a slime eats a plort from another slime, you’ll get a giant hybrid of both.
They have big appetites, and drop two types of plort, making them ideal for poop farming. However, if they eat the plort from a third type of slime, then they’ll transform into a Tarr. One errant Tarr can decimate an entire farm, as happened to me when I was out exploring the world. I came back home to my farm empty, save for one giant tabby hybrid who had somehow managed to avoid the slaughter.
In many ways, Slime Rancher laughs at the meticulous planning that it’s genre buddies encourage. Slimes will escape from pens. They will eat your chickens, raid your gardens, and eat each other’s poops, turning the whole place into a mess of crazy slime.
You can upgrade everything to automate feeding and plort collection and make it harder for slimes to escape, but one mistake, and you’re back to square one.
Luckily, you keep all your upgrades, and there are more slimes than you can carry roaming the wild range of environments you’ll find in the game. Slime Rancher gives you a perfect push and pull between exploring further and further, and running back to your farm to deposit your new slimes, grow new food, and sell some plort.
Exploring is just as fun as building your farm, and the whole thing feels so laissez faire that to read guides on the best farms to build and so on seems like the boring way to approach the whole thing.
However, Slime Rancher’s simplicity is probably it’s biggest weakness. Exploring and running all the way back to the farm, only to run back again, can get a little boring, and it doesn’t take too long to feel like you’ve seen everything. The game is still fun, but it’s a game you’re likely to fall out of after a dozen hours or so.
Even still, the time you spend with the game is tonnes of fun, the slimes are adorable, and there’s a laid back, low stress feel to the whole thing that is refreshing in a genre usually dedicated to squeezing every valuable second out of every in game day.
Slime Rancher is a farming game like no other, eschewing boring resource management for a beautiful, vibrant world, and adorable and unpredictable slimes to contend with. While you might not explore every single inch of what the game has to offer and might get bored after a while, it’s a sheer joy until then.