Loddlenaut is a charming and relaxing title where you'll play as an unnamed protagonist who arrives on the planet GUP-14 to pick up the mess that GUPPI — a mega-corporation — left behind.
Although the game is all about cleaning up the pollution left by others, Loddlenauts doesn't bring too much attention to the damage or pain caused by this carelessness. For me, that was a plus because, although I appreciate how much media is trying to teach the younger generations to be more conscientious, being bombarded by the damage and pain done by humans to nature or animals causes a severe level of anxiety to me — something that didn't load in my mind until after I booted the game up. Thankfully, if anything, it felt refreshing to clean the depths of an alien ocean while watching the adorable fish (named Loddles) come back to their habitats as I made them hospitable again.
This is probably the quickest I've been thrown into the gameplay in a while; Loddlenauts doesn't dawdle on what happened or where you are for too long. In fact, the only person who speaks to you throughout the entire game always seems to brush off anything that's happening, like they feel uncomfortable even talking about what's being done. Unfortunately, although I'm super grateful that it wasn't the opposite — where I would have seen a bunch of dead Loddles in pain and sickly — it definitely caused an odd undertone; it's like there was an enormous elephant in the room the entire time.
I had a lot of odd mixed feelings throughout my time with the game. On the one hand, the animation, sound design, and overall gameplay are incredibly cosy and adorable: you just float around cleaning everything and using the garbage you collect to upgrade your gear, unlock new tools, and even make things for the adorable Loddles. But on the other hand, there's a lot of pain in watching the alien fishies swim around covered in goo and being sad they can't eat. I think if the developer hadn't stayed with one foot in and one foot out about the mood of the game, it might have felt less ominous and more cemented — either it was relaxing or it was stressful.
That being said, the entirety of that is subjective; maybe, to some, it's not as anxiety-inducing to be confronted so blatantly with the idea of pain. So, with that bit out of the way, I'd like to talk about the gameplay henceforth as just that — gameplay!
Loddlenauts does a good job of giving what it offers — a simple, relaxing, and short experience. In total, it took me nearly five hours to complete the game fully, and that's considering I didn't use any of the extra tools that blow up and clear a whole area. I find a lot of peace in cleaning things, so I decided to just use the main tools to give myself more time with the game. This is especially a great game if you like to play by little bursts — such as on the Steam Deck or ROG Ally — so it doesn't feel as quick finish.
One of the first things I noticed and fell in love deeply with was how smooth the game felt. The developer did a phenomenal job at making everything easy to navigate and accessible by offering clear visuals of everything and intuitive controls. For a game that is strictly set underwater with a pack and tools, I have absolutely no complaints about movement. That being said, however, the tutorials could have used a bit more time, as you get sent off to clean the ocean once you understand where to see your oxygen, how to move, and how to clean; thenceforth, it was up to me to figure out what everything did and how to do it. This caused me to do a lot of needless back-and-forth on top of the already slow movement speed and small inventory.
This leads me to my next complaint — I wish there was no limitation on the boost. Although I understand that even with it, the game is pretty short, I would rather have fewer hours with the game but be able to genuinely enjoy my time swimming. It felt great when I could zoom around and collect trash, but when it became all about placing down oxygen rings strategically so I could actually go full speed, it lost a lot of its charm. This was worsened when I opened up more areas because I was excited to spend some time with the Loddles, but if I left the zone alone for too long, it would start getting polluted again, and I'd have to spend too much time swimming from point A to point B trying to clean what I had already finished 100%. If everything remained clear once you're done with the area, it would have felt much more satisfying to really put in effort, even with the energy system.
Additionally, although I absolutely loved the alien fishies, I didn't spend too much time with them because I couldn't take them with me to clean up without adding more anxiety to the journey. This was due to them refusing to eat unless the area was very clean, and I was terrified they would end up dying on me from starvation or I'd lose my oxygen if I wasn't quick enough; so, instead, I left them at their homes and occasionally visited them to give them snacks and toys, but it was quite sad I couldn't keep them close to me and see their transformations.
Overall, Loddlenauts was a nice experience. There were a lot of choices that the developer made that caused the game to feel a bit more tedious or anxiety-inducing than I would have liked, but the four hours I spent cleaning were satisfying and peaceful; I just think perhaps a bit more time or a little more focus on what direction they wanted to take the game would've done it good, as once the initial charm of cleaning wears off, the gameplay becomes monotonous and ungratifying.
Loddlenaut (Reviewed on Windows)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
It's a very short and simple experience, as the Steam page suggests, but it's definitely worth the time if you like the idea of cleaning an alien ocean to help the fishies out.