Loddlenaut is exactly what you want from a cozy game. A short experience, with no pressure or time limits and simple mechanics that you can pick up in no time. This game from developer Moon Lagoon and publisher Secret Mode is all about ocean clean-up. Players take on the role of a little space-faring custodian, whose purpose on the underwater alien planet of GUP-14 is to clean up the mess left behind by the mega corporation GUPPI, and restore the region’s biomes back to their natural state.
You'll be clearing up the purple goop stuck to the side of abandoned structures, scrubbing down plants, and polishing up the ocean floor. All this while collecting the floating trash and micro-plastics that you'll then transport back to home base, where you can repurpose it into useful materials.
Guiding you on your adventure is a helpful colleague, Dave, who communicates through messages in the top right of the screen. He’ll walk you through the game’s simple mechanics, and offer a little bit of context on the GUPPI corporation’s activities on the planet.
There are five biomes to restore, each of which have their own quirks, such as the types of contaminants you’ll find there and the special tools you’ll need to clean them up, or the native fruits that you’ll find growing on the plant life. Once you clean up one biome you’ll be able to move onto the next, but you'll always be able to return to a previous area or your home base. Each biome will steadily get dirty again over time, so you’ll want to visit them now and again to keep things in check.
You’ll pick up a variety of trash materials that you’ll need to sort into their respective types: metals, plastics, glass, food, and electronics. Feed the materials into the right receptacle and, after collecting enough, the machine will spit back out some material ‘Bits’, e.g. ( Glass Bits, Metal Bits etc.). You can then take these Bits over to the crafting machine and use them to fashion upgrades for your equipment, or other useful tools.
There’s an abundance of trash in the ocean of GUP-14, so you’ll never be short on materials. In fact, you’ll almost definitely max out your upgrades and tools long before you finish clearing up all of the regions.
Sadly, most of your equipment won’t have many upgrades to unlock. For example, your boost only has one upgrade, allowing you to move faster for just a little bit longer. Given how useful this is for getting around the biomes, especially to ferry back all the trash you’ve collected to home base (or a fast travel point), it’s a shame that you can’t expand it further. There’s certainly plenty of materials floating around to justify a few more upgrades and craftables, the latter of which mainly consists of floating lights, oxygen rings. You'll also be able to make a small selection of toys and food that you can give to the stars of the show — the Loddles.
These little alien sea-creature thingies are GUP-14’s native species. They’re adorable, harmless, and in need of a good clean. You’ll find them swimming around the biomes, covered in goop and, after cleaning them off, can be fed, pet and interacted with. Once you’ve tidied up a biome sufficiently, you’ll be able to return the Loddles to their refreshed habitat and watch them grow. Each Loddle can be renamed, and you’ll be able inspect their status to determine whether they’re hungry, sad, or bored. Feed them some of the local plant life, or cook them up something tasty. You can craft them some toys, too, though you'll only have a few crafting options to choose from.
One great aspect about these Loddles is that you won't need to keep an eye on them too much. Once they've been escorted to a clean environment, they'll be able to sustain themselves on the native fruit. Even if they're just swimming around in your home base they'll never die, so you won't have to stress about maintaining their health as you go about your clean-up mission. You can simply catch up with them as you please, bring them a little snack, or just hang out.
Each Loddle has the potential to grow into a newly evolved version, such as strange snake-like Loddles or axolotl-like Loddles. Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be a way to keep track of all the Loddle types you’ve discovered so you can’t quite tell if you’ve befriended them all. Regardless, they help make the world of GUP-14 feel less lonely, and it’s a joy to see them grow in numbers after fixing their polluted home.
And that, as simple as it seems, is the important message to take away from Loddlenaut. Where our corporations and lifestyles have polluted the habitats of species, it’s our responsibility to clean up what we’ve left behind and restore the balance. Loddlenaut conveys its message subtly, without patronisation or guilt. Instead, it invites you into a calming adventure and helps you be a part of the solution. There’s no threat here, no high-stakes. Just encouragement to make the ocean a cleaner place for its natural inhabitants.
There is room, however, for it to go a little further. Loddlenaut doesn't have much of a story to it. The few snippets you do get are told through small comments from Dave, or in Holo-Badges — little collectibles that you'll find around the ocean left behind by ex-GUPPI employees. You never quite get a sense as to why GUP-14 has been left in the state that is has, or why the clean-up has been shouldered entirely on this little guy. But a little more of a narrative, even slightly, could easily find a happy spot in this otherwise charmingly enjoyable indie.
Verdict - 4/5
There’s very little to dislike about Loddlenaut. It ticks all the boxes of an ideal cozy game, with adorable companions, a calming atmosphere, and uncomplicated mechanics. You’ll be zapping away goop and caring for Loddles during this roughly 4-5 hour clean-up adventure, making it a great game to curl up with on a lazy afternoon. Its only downsides are its upgrade limitations and bare-bones story, which could have seen this little indie float to the top. Despite this, if you’re looking for your next wholesome game, and one with an ever-important message, you and Loddlenaut will get along swimmingly.
A PC review code for Loddlenaut was provided by its publisher Secret Mode.