If we could sum Slime Rancher up in one word it would be fun. Fun and cute. Wait, that's two words. Ok, but those two words are basically what Monomi Park's charming title is all about. They say that love comes when you least expect it, and we certainly weren't expecting to fall for this one. On paper, it's a first-person shooter that latched onto the slime craze that has taken over schools all over the world. It's much more than that, however.
You take on the role of Beatrix LeBeau, who has headed to the far-flung reaches of space known as the Far Far Range in order to find her fortune ranching slime. Thereafter you wander around your new home with something that looks like a mixture between a proton pack and a vacuum cleaner, hoovering up slime to take back to your farm.
There are three modes to choose from including Adventure, Casual and a race against the clock to earn as much cash as you can in the time allowed. You earn money by feeding your slimes and harvesting the "plorts" that pop out of them after digestion. This effectively means you are selling their... you get the idea.
Most of your time will be spent in Adventure mode. The plorts you sell give you cash that can be spent building up your farm with things like new pens, ponds, and crops. Pens can be upgraded with auto-feeders, plort collectors, and other things like calming music and high walls. You'll also have to spend your coinage on opening up new areas of the farm for new crops and pens. If that's not enough, you can upgrade your tools and farmhouse. It does mean that the initial few hours involve a bit of grinding to save up money and buy new stuff, but at no point did it feel like a chore.
This is the kind of gentle busywork that you can intend to play for 20 mins and then three hours later you realise you're late for work. There's something really charming about heading out into the wilds, collecting new slime, food, and plorts, and also selling your wares on the miniature stock exchange, building something, and then heading back out. It's a gameplay loop that we have repeatedly gotten lost in.
One thing we loved was the fact that just when you thought you'd got a handle on things, something new arrives for you to deal with. If it's not fulfilling orders for random characters to earn goodies, it's entering a race to catch as many plorts in a time-limited event. It really feels like you're on a gentle voyage of discovery. After a time you'll even open up the science lab at which point you can start building gadgets and gizmos like drones, making life even easier.
Out in the world, hunting for slimes, you'll come across Gordos. Much like Mr Creosote from Monty Python, if you feed them enough, they'll pop and you may just get your hands on a Slime Key. These keys will open up new gates to more regions where you can find new varieties of slimes and crops.
There's a great range of different slimes to befriend and kidnap. They include one that gives you honey, a puddle slime, and even one that blows up. The explosions can actually knock you out if you catch enough of the blast. Don't worry, you'll be back on your feet in no time because as mentioned before, there's no death. This is a family-friendly title, and while it would be cliché to say that it's fun for kids of all ages, it absolutely rings true in this case.
Everything about Slime Rancher is charming and vibrant. The colours are bold and fun, with the visuals boasting a charmingly cartoony style. It's got something of a Pokemon style to it with the catch-em-all element, but obviously without the battle system. Instead, to make life more interesting you can feed your slimes the plorts of other species. This creates Largos, which in turn create two different plorts when they poop. Remembering that the plorts are a form of excretion kind of gives the whole thing a darker undertone.
Be careful not to feed your Largos too many different plorts, though, as they can turn into some kind of aggressive black pumpkin that kills your other creatures. Luckily, dowsing them in water can save the day. There is nothing worse than building up your ranch to watch it gobbled by an evil pumpkin or have your chicken pen invaded by hungry pink slime.
There is an overarching story to be found, but if we're honest it feels a little inconsequential and a side-note. You see random texts left by a former farmer at various points of the game, but it didn't seem to extend much beyond that. We could imagine that for some, the lack of purpose may be a little of a downer, but we found that trophy hunting helped us feel some sense of direction and that was enough. We also wanted to see what happened in the end, after the farm was built up, so there was some form of motivation from start to finish. The lack of multiplayer wasn't really an issue for us, but maybe there was room for some experimentation in that area, as it certainly might have added a bit of longevity.
We had so much fun out on the Slime Ranch. It's a charming and well-made game that kept a smile on our faces throughout. While it may not be suited to those who prefer a more serious story-driven adventure, there's so much to see and do here. This is pure, unbridled fun, and while there is an element of repetition and grind, if you enjoy the gentle pacing of games like Stardew Valley then this is something you should really give a go, especially if you have kids.
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