Unfinished Business is NME’s weekly column about the weird and wonderful world of Early Access games. This week, Rick Lane goes full goblin mode with uwu-tastic adventure Seal World.
There are days when you want to dress up in your snazziest clobber and head out to a swanky restaurant to eat pan-fried scallops, prime-cut steak and desserts assembled by a chartered architect. You want a premium experience that’s worth a little effort to enjoy – a Breath Of The Wild, or an Elden Ring.
Then there are days when you want to sit in bed wearing nothing but your pants eating Wotsits by the handful. This is the kind of evening Seal World was designed for. It’s a basic, janky and highly endearing game, best played with orange fingertips.
Hailing from the same cursed petting zoo as Goat Simulator, Seal World sees you play as a cheery ball of blubber in a 3D cartoon village, with the simple goal of exploring the environment and collecting as many “fibsh” as you can. Your interactions in Seal World amount to moving and jumping (or “flopping” and “hopping” as is the case here), while progression is tracked via cosmetic hats that are unlocked as you collect more fibsh.
Mainly though, Seal World is about the conversations you have with your fellow aquatic mammals, and the chill vibes that emanate from the game as a result. See, the village you explore is populated with many other whiskered round-bois, all with the same tennis-ball flippers and marker-pen faces as you. Each seal you interact with provides a silly, throwaway aside designed to tickle you right in your tightest, most stubborn muscle-knots.
On a picnic table near the starting area, for example, you’ll meet a terracotta-coloured seal dad who gently chastises his seal son for not being lazy enough. Venture a little further, and you’ll discover Sealtown, a bustling hive of inactivity where seal bankers encourage you to invest in “fibsh stock”, while seal scientists are hard at work unravelling the mysteries of the “golden fish” (conclusion: big better than small!).
Seal World‘s humour is heavily meme based, bouncing between various Internet culture touchstones like crypto and doge. It’s an approach that could easily backfire, as a lot of meme culture is transient. But Seal World balances its extremely online persona with a strong sense of comic timing, deploying snappy camera-cuts and well-judged text breaks to set-up proper punchlines. It isn’t as funny as, say, Jazzpunk, and I’ll admit that the whole “Fibsh” shtick began to irritate me after a while. But it’s still a darn sight funnier than Goat Simulator, and had me chuckling regularly as I explored the simple but colourful world.
It’s also an aggressively wholesome game, which, as with Seal World‘s approach to humour, is something that could quickly become annoying. Elements like the seals’ emoji-faces and the use of bleepy-bloopy sounds to indicate which character is talking see the game venture dangerously close to setting off my twee alarm. But Seal World is simply too silly to stray fully into sentimentality.
There’s also a running theme to Seal World‘s unambiguous positivity, best summarised by the character ‘Lava Seal’ when they say “You’re not lazy! You are RESTING.” Whereas Goat Simulator was one giant exercise in attention-seeking, the butt of its own bad joke, Seal World has a point to make about relaxation and enjoying life in the moment. It’s a game that says it’s ok to not be constantly striving toward something, that your entertainment doesn’t have to be bound up in ideas of achievement or progression. It’s a game that says it’s ok to chill out, to be a big comfy circle with a silly happy face.
This is part of what makes Seal World such a good duvet-day game. By any normal metric it is not an especially good game. The visuals are incredibly basic, much of the environment has barely been iterated beyond the blockout stage, the puzzles are insipid and the platforming is uninspired. But it also costs less than two pounds, and packs so many good vibes into its hour or so of playtime that I genuinely felt better after spending time with it.
On Steam, the developer of Seal World estimates the game will remain in Early Access for a year, during which time they plan to add “multiple worlds” in addition to the single world currently available in the game, bringing new characters to interact with, alongside new puzzles to solve and choices to make. I have no when these updates will arrive but frankly, I don’t think it matters. I have spent more money on bad cups of coffee than I did on Seal World many times over, and it is absolutely worth its absurdly low price of entry. So climb into bed and prepare to stuff yourself spherical with cheap, delicious snacks.