There are occasions when, on a Friday night with nothing else to do, I find myself wantonly spending money on steam. My mileage varies a lot with this habit, but last Friday I stumbled on a game so saccharine yet entertaining, that I was actually quite pleased with how I spent my twenty dollars. That game was Slime Rancher— a sandbox game a la Viva Pinata— which allows you to capture, combine, and questionably house various types of adorable slimes.
The game is in Early Access, meaning that it’s still an unfinished product. It’s a little overpriced for a game still in development, but Slime Rancher shows a lot of promise. The art is gorgeous and somehow makes the mutiny of my underfed and neglected slimes a little more endearing. The world is well fleshed out, although there are several areas marked off by little ‘Under Construction’ signs that manage to be simultaneously adorable and annoying. Even without access to these areas, I was constantly rewarded for my adventures away from the ranch. The game wants you to explore, and spares no effort to make sure you do.
While my captured slimes starved and attempted to build a wall of slime flesh to escape (this happens all the time in my ranch, seriously), I found cat slimes, rock slimes, firefly slimes, and a variety of food that— had I been playing the game more like a true rancher, and less like a pokemon master— I probably should have taken back to my neglected ranch. It will be interesting to see how creative the developers can get with the creation of new slimes. Heck, I want to be a part of their slime developing team. Hedgehog slimes? Leopard slimes? Penguin slimes? Someone sign me up…
Another cool feature of this game is how you can combine slimes to create new species. This could easily become pretty addictive as more slimes are added to the game. The only drawback I found with this is that if you combine more than twice, it creates some kind of mutated sludge-like slime that runs around terrorizing every other slime on the map. This is equal parts amusing, terrifying, and slightly annoying, as I wish I could mash together more than two species. But I guess not everyone is a mad scientist.
Slime Rancher isn’t flawless (yet). It is at its best, a charming sandbox with gorgeous visuals, and at worst, shallow. The game could benefit greatly from more variety in both locations and slimes. There isn’t a ton of content, and you can feasibly play through most of it in a few hours of time. This is to be expected, given its Early Access status, but if monetary utility is your thing, you might want to wait until the game is fully released to reap the biggest reward.
While it seems pretty optimized for keyboard and mouse, I opted to use a controller, and the experience wasn’t particularly stellar. It wasn’t bad per se; most controls are where you’d expect them to be, and the combination of buttons used to play isn’t uncomfortable. However, there is a distinct lack of controller support in the help pop-ups throughout the beginning of the game. It wasn’t terrible, but it was definitely mildly annoying to figure out the controls on the fly.
Unfortunately, navigating the menus for farm and ranch upgrades was awkward and counterintuitive. Several times I was forced to pick up my mouse and keyboard to sort out a menu issue, which wasn’t the best experience in the world.
Overall, though, this is every bit the sandbox I expected it to be, given its Early Access status. It will be fun to see it take off in the future. For now though, you can find me away from the ranch, hunting down more slimes.
Check it out on Steam, or the official website!