Games

'Ooblets' Rides a Fine Line Between Too Cute and Totally Adorable

The mix of relatable characters and "cute" naming conventions saves 'Ooblets' from being overly saccharine.
July 22, 2020, 1:00pm
Key art from Ooblets, A woman with light skin and black hair, wearing a coral sweater, is surrounded by various Ooblets, creatures that seem to be part plant, part animal, and very cute.
Image courtesy of Glumberland LLC

People in general enjoy cute things, but there's a difference between something, say a cat, being cute, and a game trying to evoke cuteness. "Wholesome" games tend to have what could be considered "cute" aesthetics, and some of them extend that to their narrative as well. Ooblets toes the line between being just cute enough without being overly annoying by using cute aesthetics and cutesy names, but putting that alongside sort of mundane and relatable characters. While every item in the game has a cute name like "Nurnies" or "Sweetiebeeties," the NPCs have a variety of personalities aside from "cute" that balance some of the sickly sweetness. We discuss Ooblets, Patrick's newfound Paper Mario__: The Origami King skills, and more on this episode of Waypoint Radio. You can listen to the full episode and read an excerpt below.

Gita: And I also really appreciate that instead of cockfights you just have them do dance battles that's much nicer. And you're just nicer overall to the Ooblets than you are to Pokemon. You're not very nice to Pokemon.

Austin: Damn

Gita: Anyway. You just, you're not! You put them in little balls! Your Ooblets follow you around.

Austin: Ooblets follow you around, and they dance.

Gita: And you give them a house! You can give them a house!

Austin: You can give them house, that's true.

Gita: Yeah, I just feel like that's more fair.

Austin: They do help you farm. You can be like "yo do this for me real quick. Yeah stand here all day and turn this [crank]," so I'm just saying they're, you know, let's not count our Ooblets before they hatch over here.

Gita: There is still some sketchiness ok. But at least they want to come with you and they don't flee from you when they see you, you know? They run up towards you.

Austin: They do run towards you like "yo, we gotta dance right now! But only if you have two broken lump stumps" or whatever the hell those things are called.

Gita: Two planklets and a bunch of nurnies or whatever.

Austin: Yeah I need eight nurnies to dance right now.

Gita: Ugh, I always need eight nurnies to dance. Yeah, the phraseology that I'm sometimes with it and sometimes I'm not with it, you know?

Austin: Yeah I do know, I 100% know. I said this last week but up top it's the hardest because, it's just dumping it all on you and you're not even farming yet and you're like "what are you, why are we doing this?"

Gita: So cutesy wootsy, it is, but it stops being cutesy wootsy once you get into the rhythms of the town that you're in. Once you sort of spend time in Badgetown, and you realize that nurnies are just like any other infrastructural object in this world.

Austin: They're a resource you get from rocks. Instead of calling it stone they're calling it nurnies.

Gita: Yeah, you know people aren't saying "nurney wurney" and being cutesy wootsy all the time. They're generally just normal people that you talk to, the named characters.

Austin: That main set, yeah.

Gita: Especially Arah. She makes potions, the goth girl, who's my favorite of course. She is such a sort of mundane kind of older teen. Even though she's surrounded by all this twee stuff, it kind of grounds the tweeness in actual human behavior. I feel like the thing that I dislike the most about "wholesome" games, with that cutesy wootsyness, is that it quickly feels like it is absolutely not in touch with any part of actually being a human. And I do really like things that are cute and sweet and wholesome, but my experience of the world is incredibly mundane. I wake up and I eat breakfast and I have to go to work to earn money for a job.

And in this town, people also do those things, and most of their lives in fact revolve around the things they do for a living, rather than how cute and sweet and wholesome things are. There is a sense that it's a nicer place to live in the world that we live in. I mean, especially because there's cute little animals that just want to be your friends all the time. But it seems like wholesomeness and cuteness exists alongside just sort of the regular boringness of being a person, and that's the thing that's eventually making that all the terminology a lot easier for me to sort of be with and be around for long periods of time.


This transcript was edited for length and clarity.

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