Slime Rancher was an indie hit that I know was good, but never bothered picking up for one reason or another. Even while it was on Game Pass. But after this one tweet, I decided that, you know what, let’s see what the fuss is all about and play the sequel, Slime Rancher 2, currently out in Early Access on PC (Steam, Microsoft Store) and Xbox consoles, as well as on Game Pass.
I get it now.
Slime Rancher 2 even at its current state is already a sublime fun experience. I am now enamoured by this series. But after looking and comparing the sequel with the first game, harden veterans will find that Slime Rancher 2 really lives up to that Early Access moniker.
In Slime Rancher 2, slime wrangler Beatrix LeBeau has completed her adventures in the Far, Far, Range and has now moved into a completely new locale- Rainbow Island. There’s a mystery to discover here, but the important thing is the Conservatory is well-equipped to start up a new slime ranch. And there’s plenty of slime roaming out and about.
The Slime Rancher games are one of the many, many games in the now-crowded farming game genre. So as you can expect, you do indeed have to take care of a farm. And not just “replace slimes as animals” kind of way, you do get to tend to chickens as well, which some slimes treat as a food source, alongside fruits and veggies. You know, actual farming.
The main gameplay loop seems to be at first like a farming game. Suck some slimes with your vacuum pack, bring them back to the farm, set up a corral, feed them food, watch them splurt out splorts, collect those splorts and sell it to the splort market. You indeed do that, and over time you slowly discover some of the tricks and gimmicks that’ll test you on how you manage your slime ranch.
But actually, I argue the real core to the Slime Rancher games is what you do outside of the ranch.
In Slime Rancher 2, you are now in the lush lands of Rainbow Island, filled with a population of slimes new and old and no towns or other residents here.
It’s an open world, but not at an open world scale. The design of the environment is intricate enough that if you talk to someone about how you get to a location, you can describe it in the specifics (go left, through the statues, follow the path upwards, etc.) instead of just a cardinal direction or a waypoint on the map. It’s also dense with layers of verticality, hidden paths and shortcuts as well as secret collectibles to find.
I don’t play enough games of this kind, but I compare the adventuring as appealing as Journey To The Savage Planet, but Slime Rancher 2 is more wholesome of course.
Exploration here is massively satisfying, especially when you get the upgrades that expand your first-person platforming abilities. If you have a curious mind and love to poke and prod around the world to see what will happen, Rainbow Island in Slime Rancher 2 will tickle you with the delight of discovery ever so often.
As wholesome as the game presents itself, by default, you are presented with threats. For one, exploring around the world and you’ll stumble upon feral slimes that will attack you on sight, unless you feed them something to get them back into a good mood. Or run away. Or be a merciless heartless person and throw them off a cliff.
The other challenge comes from the Tarr. You see, a slime can eat up another slime’s splort (eww) to become a largo slime- a combination of two slime types. Not only they are embiggen themselves, but they now share the traits of two slime types- their original trait and the trait from the splort they just ate. If you found a Tabby slime (slimes with cat ears) and the new Cotton slime (slimes with bunny ears), the largo slime now eats meat and veggies. And should they splurt out their splorts, they produce both Tabby and Cotton splorts. It’s slime cross-breeding, essentially.
But what if the largo slime eats another different splort? Well, that’s when you go over the line and they’ll turn into Tarr instead. These prismatic black balls of death will continue gobbling up other slimes to turn them into Tarrs, killing off the whole population of slimes if left unchecked.
Throughout exploring the world, you’ll easily come across patches of land where two different slimes roam around doing slimy things, stacking each other, eating up whatever they find and be jolly. And then when a third slime type joins the scene, things can turn for the worse in an instant. Careful when exploring at night.
Don’t worry the slimes do respawn again over time, but that means the cycle will continue.
The Tarr is an amazing mechanic that basically serves as a way to control the slime population. It’s dark, but you can’t have a ridiculous ton of slimes in one place. That’s too much cuteness for one person to handle, and for one computer or console to handle as well, imagine the framerate drops. A Tarr outbreak can happen back in the ranch too, a layer of challenge to ensure you don’t leave any splort around for a loose largo slime to happily gobble up.
That being said, Slime Rancher 2 can be a wholesome, pacifist game despite you spending the time in the first person aiming the suck cannon like it’s a gun. You can toggle off feral slimes and Tarr that are on by default.
(On that note, shoutout to Monomi Park for making a game about slimes being all cute and wholesome. The thing about that tweet that got me playing is that in Bahasa Malaysia, the word that translates to slime in that language is still strongly associated with icky, gooey, gross and possibly lewd connotations. And this game avoids all of that. The word “suck” never appeared and replaced with “vac”, short for vacuuming, and I strongly believe that’s intentional. Well played.)
After more than 10 hours, I feel like I’ve seen all that’s currently on offer in Slime Rancher 2 at the launch of the Early Access period. It’s a fun adventure game first, a farming game second, from my experience.
Running around the world scavenging resources to upgrade the farm is where most of my time went in, rather than having to tend the farm that much. But things can change when more content is added where you must have a decent farming operation to get enough splorts for the upgrades. And I am pretty much looking forward to that.
If you haven’t tried Slime Rancher yet, just jump straight into Slime Rancher 2. The story tie-in to the previous game is there, but you won’t feel completely left out by not playing the first game. And you are also likely to enjoy it more by not being able to compare this to the first game.
Veterans of the first game might find the new setting to be fun, but from my understanding, all the core mechanics are here but there are no game-changing or new systems being introduced, yet. So it’s like jumping into base The Sims 4 at launch from The Sims 3 with all the DLCs.
Any other big changes for Slime Rancher 2 that warrants that 2 in the name other than the setting change are still not being seen here. But as the start of an Early Access game, it’s polished, playable and already a sublime fun experience.
Played on PC. Impressions based on Early Access build on launch. Game access via the reviewer’s personal PC Game Pass subscription.