Give this Greenlit Gem a chance!
In a galaxy far, far away. Wait, no that’s right. On a Ranch in the far, far range lives Beatrix LeBeau and her many slimy creatures, simply named slimes. Slime Rancher has taken the Indie gaming community of Steam by storm (or rather, by slime.) The game was kicked through Steam’s Greenlight program in early January and released not long after on January 14th, 2016. It doesn’t look like the developers had to fight long to have their slimy baby published on steam. I found out about the game from a small gaming subreddit, r/girlgamers. The commenters expressed nothing but praise for this neat game. So much so that I was absolutely compelled to download it and play right away.
Slime Rancher takes place somewhere called the “Far, far range.” Through hints and mentions in the game, players can only assume that they’re on an alien planet quite far from Earth. Luckily, you’re not the only rancher who has decided to round up these cute, yet weird, little balls of slime. As soon as you begin the game you receive a message from a kindly rancher named Thora West who gives you a few tips and tricks for the life of a slime rancher. You’re welcomed into the far, far range with your own ranch with some slimes and chickens running amok of your newly acquired home. You’ve already been equipped with the right tools to become the richest slime rancher there is — a vacpac. From there you have an entire map to explore and exploit.
From what I can tell, the entire objective of the game is to collect slimes, build up your ranch, and sell slime poop. It appears our heroine LeBeau is ranching slimes to sell their ultravaluable waste known as “plort.” Huh, that’s actually really fun to say. Plort! Anyways, collecting and selling plort rewards the players with money that can be used to buy better corrals and pens for their ranch, invest in farmland to feed these slimy balls, upgrade your vacpac, and create your own slimetopia where only you rule. And I really mean only you. While there are other characters in the game, like Thora West, you are left alone with the slime. It feels a lot like Notch’s major success, Minecraft. You are dumped into this world with the ability to (somewhat) manipulate the world around you to create a personal achievement. To me, these worlds feel like a completely empty MMO (though Slime Rancher is certainly not as expansive yet.) You are left alone to wander the range and discover every secret that lies hidden by the Slime Sea or in the many nooks and crannies of the canyons in the Dry Reef.
Upon first impression, I really enjoyed Slime Rancher; it’s cute, has great music, and is addictingly fun. It’s a game where anyone can pick up and instantly excel. The art itself is simply amazing. The landscape and alien creatures have that soft, Disney-esque feeling like in my childhood favorite movie, Lilo & Stitch. I immediately fell in love with the alien slimes because of their ridiculously cute and smiling faces. There are several different types of slime that bounce and roll all over the surface of this strange planet. The most common being bubblegum pink slimeballs of joy. So far, I’ve encountered the pink slime, kitty slimes, crystal slimes, and fairy slimes. The variations don’t stop there, though. When one carnivorous slime encounters another type of slime there’s a chance that it will result in a new type of slime called a “largo.” Largos are a combination of two slimes (so twice the valuable plort!) The largos are much larger than the other slimes, and sometimes try to chase and eat the rancher for more food. There’s also a chance that these lovable slimes become multicolored monsters. If a largo eats plort produced from a different type of slime than its own combination, it will turn into a sludge called “tarr.” The tarr eat and destroy everything in their path, including the rancher. These seem to be the only real enemies in the game and are quite a hassle to encounter.
You’re not totally unequipped when facing enemies and little slimes. You already have your trusty vacpac as soon as you start the game. The vacpac is somewhat similar to F.L.U.D.D. in Super Mario Sunshine, though it can’t speak and has way better upgrades. The vacpac is the best, and only, tool a rancher on the far, far range needs. Honestly, the best part of the vacpac is the ability to customize and create a deadly weapon as well as a helpful tool. So, instead of running away from the tarr and swinging your mouse haphazardly around your table, (I tend to panic a bit when ambushed by an enemy from behind) you can easily rid your ranch of these sludge monsters. The controls are perfectly fluid with the vacpac and easy to understand, so even a panicky player like me can become an expert and explore the map without worry.
While you begin in your own ranch and have only the Dry Reef to explore at first, you are given the chance to explore other areas of the map at a cost. Luckily, this is not for-real out-of-pocket money. In order to purchase these expanded areas, you need to collect and sell plort. Once you reach about 1000 or more in game money, then you are free to purchase new areas. I haven’t yet reached that point since I’ve been focusing on catching and ranching all different types of slime. The first map is so large though, that you should not feel compelled to leave until all the hidden secrets are all uncovered. I’ve only just began to explore the Dry Reef and have found myself face to face with a skull and crossbones sign right outside of an interesting canyon.
The game itself plays pretty well for a quickly published indie game, though I do have some grievances with its controller support (I still haven’t shaken off my love for game controllers). The controls are almost impossible to use with a game controller, although it works fairly well with a good mouse and keyboard. You can easily access everything you need with a tap of a button and expel a nasty tarr with a click of the mouse. But with most indie games, the controls are not exactly perfect. The camera is a bit clunky and hard to control which results in slimes coming at you from unknown directions.
While we’re on the subject of directions, I’m not quite sure what direction Slime Rancher is heading towards. There isn’t much story or explanation for the game. I guess this could be more of a personal disappointment since my favorite games tend to be as wordy as I am, but if Slime Rancher wants to keep its players interested then there has got to be more than just collecting and corralling slimes. Though I haven’t gotten quite yet bored with the game, I have a feeling if this is all there is then it could become quite stale quite soon. We’ve seen this happen before in games, especially with those like Minecraft (which recently just released a story-mode to add a bit more depth to the successful game). Slime Rancher is not as expansive or has an easily manipulated environment. I’d love to see the game introduce a storyline, even if it’s just a small mystery that will keep the players interested in the slimy world.
Keep in mind that this game has only just been released on Steam and is still in early access, so some of my critiques will be addressed and praises might change. That being said, I think Slime Rancher has a bright future ahead of it. It’s a simple and highly entertaining game that any type of gamer can fall in love with. If the developers find a way to keep the game fresh and not just make different areas look and feel like the exact same thing over a different landscape skin, then they can continue to enrapture their players. My hope is that they add a story and a bit more depth to the game to keep it fresh. This game is definitely worth checking out, if not now, then in the future after a bit more time of the early access. It can be found in the Steam store for only $19.99. Now, I have to go and rustle up some more plort. I really need to upgrade my corrals!