My impressions of the public pre-alpha
After seeing some brief gameplay of Slime Rancher, I instantly thought, "I feel like this is going to be the next big thing and I need to get my hands on it stat."
I'm very excited to tell you that I believe I was right. After a few hours with the pre-alpha version, I'm extremely anxious for more content to be released for this so-cute-it-hurts first-person ranching simulator, and I don't even typically like this kind of game!
Slime Rancher (PC [previewed], Mac, Linux)
Developer: Monomi Park
Publisher: Monomi Park
Release Date: TBA 2016
Beatrix LeBeau wakes up on the Far, Far Range ranch a thousand light years away from Earth and has decided to make a living by wrangling slimes. Using a trusty vacpack (read: vacuum gun), she'll suck in wild slimes, fruit, vegetables, chickens, and plorts (aka slime poops).
When starting your first day (time passes a minute per second in real-world time), you'll have a bare-bones ranch with multiple plots on which to build corrals for your slimes, gardens to grow fruits and vegetables, coops for chicken-like hen hens, silos for storage, and so on. Most of your time, however, is spent exploring off the ranch for different types of slimes. They range from basic pink slimes to cute cat-like tabby slimes to glowing phosphorus slimes that only come out at night.
Capturing slimes feels similar to using the vacuum from Luigi's Mansion, only in first-person; it is rather simple yet satisfying. Coming across your first group of wandering wild slimes with joyous smiles on their faces is exciting. I found myself saying 'awwwww' out loud more than once during my time with Slime Rancher -- more so than probably any game I've played. While Pokémon and Harvest Moon have their moments of cuteness, Slime Rancher simply oozes it.
Ranch management isn't cheap. To earn money, you'll be collecting plorts from slimes, both wild and those stored at your ranch. Slimes produce plorts when fed their preferred food source. For example, pink slimes will eat anything edible while tabby slimes will only eat meat. Once plorts are collected, you can sell them in the market via a machine stationed in your ranch. The device shows the current prices for each variation of plort and whether the price has risen or fallen recently.
Plorts serve more than one purpose, however. If you feed a slime a plort from a different breed of slime, it will grow larger and develop features from the other species. For instance, feeding a pink slime a plort from a tabby will make it grow a tail and two ears. These combination slimes will eat both food sources their original species would eat, and always produce a plort from each species when fed, so you can get two plorts for the price of one.
Feeding a combination slime another plort from a third species results in a monstrosity known as "The Tarr." These are evil black slimes that have rainbow streaks running through them, much like you'd see in motor oil in a parking lot. The Tarrs will eat other slimes whole while their terrified faces look at you as if to cry out for help. Should you venture too close to The Tarr, you'll also be attacked, though your health regenerates after a short time. There are two ways to take care of these evildoers: suck up and shoot water on them, or suck them up and shoot them into the nearby ocean; you're only a few feet away from it as the ranch is located on one of a series of connected islands.
Even though Slime Rancher is still only considered pre-alpha by its developers, I found myself playing it for hours. There is already a ton to do. Each corral can be upgraded with various functions such as high walls, auto-feeders, and plort collectors. Music can keep the slimes from getting agitated and trying to escape their pens. At one point, my tabby slimes stacked on top of each other and jumped in my hen hen coop and ate all my hen hens! Naughty slimes.
A silo can be purchased to store fruits and vegetables, as well as an incinerator to destroy things you no longer need. In the alpha, everything you can collect is of some use. Not only can you upgrade your corrals, gardens, and coops, but you can buy two extensions to your ranch: one is a cave and the other is a forest-like area, each with more spots for building. There are also character upgrades such as health, a jetpack, and stamina. Daily orders are available that ask for specific items and slimes to be deposited which, upon completion, reward you with valuable plorts, slimes, and edibles.
Slime Rancher is adorable. The graphics are also on point, especially when you consider it is running on Unity and looks similar to and as good as Team Fortress 2. The music is calming, reminiscent of some of the ambient tunes you'd hear in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, while the gameplay feels totally original despite being part of a genre that has existed for years.
The game is expected to launch on Steam Early Access soon, but if you want to experience the in-development pre-alpha builds now, you can do so by pre-ordering at the official site for $19.99. While that might sound steep, there are already hours worth of enjoyable content in the current build with the promise of much more to come.