Like a lot of gamers, I often take a look at a game’s screenshots to draw my first impressions and then categorise it so as to decide what games I can focus on in my limited game playing time. Everyone does it to some degree and seeing as I’ve spent a fair few years now in the worlds of sci-fi first person shooters I might have unconsciously made a habit of avoiding anything that strays too far from my comfort zone. This game here however made me think twice about own flawed processes as it has turned out to be quite the charmer.
Recently debuting as a Games with Gold title on Xbox One, Slime Rancher casts you as a new arrival on a world who is looking to set up a farm and make a living through collecting and harvesting the planet’s population of slimes. Looking like the end product of carving smiley faces from jelly beans, slimes require some basic management to be efficiently producing the resources you need to cash in and make a living in the game. Feeding the slimes their favourite food will result in them popping out plorts that can then be sold for currency or traded for other resources which you need.
There’s certainly more to it than that though. Slimes need to be cared for if you want to maximise your profits and they all have different needs. They also aren’t the easiest of things to keep captive (overfill a corral and see them escape) and the food you find might not always agree with them either. Outside your homestead you can encounter feral slimes or the aggressive tarr which need to be dealt with as they will attack but they can be dealt with fairly simply with their favourite foods or water. Thankfully the game’s Slimepedia keeps track of this and is a handy reference as you play.
Upgrades are also available to purchase including movement boosts that increase your sprinting abilities and a jetpack that helps you access parts of the map where a jump won’t suffice. Your vacuum can also be enhanced to increase its capacity as you’ll quickly run out of personal inventory space. You don’t get the ability to use your vacuum offensively until you can get access to the right resources and even then you’re not really feeling the need to be aggressive in most situations.
Additional areas in the game can be opened up with when you earn enough credits to expand your homestead and the game gently encourages you to work towards this while getting familiar with the zone initially open to you. If you want to produce enough resources for feeding a lot of captive slimes you definitely want to have as much space as you can.
On the Xbox One achievements are given out right from the beginning as you start meeting the smaller milestones so there’s incentive to keep doing better if you like the rewards side of gaming. The targets for other achievements do get incrementally larger but as you expand your homestead they’ll also feel like they are getting within reach.
Presentation wise the game is pretty marvellous. The world is bright and cheerful and the slimes are cheerful, happy and leave little splat marks when you shoot them at things. The audio shares a similar tone with a relaxing background track that went a long way in making me feel like taking my time when playing through the game.
If you’re interested in your kids or significant non-gamer other getting an understanding of the mechanics of first person shooters without the adult oriented content or the pressures usually inherent in these games. It could work in much the same way that Minecraft appeals to a wider audience but with a focus on farming rather than building.
The way it deals with failure really helps in that respect too – you wake back at your home with a few hours passed, your inventory empty and a small hit to your bank account. In the grand scheme of things that’s not really a big loss for any player.
It’s hard for me to really know if there is enough for players in the long term but Slime Rancher is such a chilled and happy expetience I think this might surprise a few people. It’ll certainly keep you smiling for a long time.
Slime Rancher was developed by Monomi Park is out now for PC and Xbox One. Reviewed on Xbox One.