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EGX Highlights: Loddlenaut combines the zen of PowerWash Sim with cleaning up the ocean, and it's a lo-fi delight

Let me get the soap box out for this one

A diver zaps gunk in the ocean in Loddlenaut
Image credit: Secret Mode

When I see dirt, I know what I must do: clean. Whether it's in my own, real-life home or in a game, I am compelled to scrub, wipe and tidy - and the oily, purple globs of gunk clogging up Loddlenaut's appropriately named region of Flotsam Flats are just begging to be zapped by my little diver's handy laser gun. With just a single squeeze of the trigger, he sets to work, moving his arm automatically to neatly attack each neighbouring blob without any further prompting or manual aiming. All I need to focus on is getting him close enough to the gunge and he'll take care of the rest. Sure, it's perhaps not quite as involved as your PowerWash Sims and other polish em ups, but the combination of Loddlenaut's lo-fi visuals, comforting score and surprisingly soothing controller rumble all work to give it its own kind of zen-like charm - and it was enough to make me forget the surrounding din of the EGX Rezzed Zone for a very enjoyable 20 minutes or so.

I began by simply getting to grips with how to move my diver around the ocean floor. He tootles along at a steady clip, and simple button presses will make him ascend or sink further into the depths, making it easy to get him to the next nearest patch of offending goo. In fact, the only thing you have to worry about is your diver's oxygen levels. A slowly diminishing meter on the back of his jetpack gives you a small visual cue on how you're currently faring, but there's also a percentage bar in the bottom corner of the screen giving you a more accurate reading as well - which I appreciated when I inevitably forgot about needing to keep my little guy breathing because I'd got too carried away with my ocean power err, washing? Yes. You can totally wash something that's already, in itself, liquid, right? That's what I'm going with and I'm sticking with it, so there.

Underwater diver recycles cans in a screenshot from Loddlenaut
Image credit: Secret Mode

Oxygen isn't a constant worry, I'd say. I didn't time how long a full tank gave me, but it felt like a good five minutes or so, giving you just enough time to get into the flow of things and get a decent chunk of work done. Luckily, certain underwater fauna will, once cleaned, start producing little oxygen bubbles that will top you up when you pass through them - though there are also boost rings dotted about that will replenish your tank completely. The latter are few and far between, however, putting the emphasis squarely on 'surviving by cleaning' and doing your job - which is more satisfying and zen-like rather than having to tear yourself away all the time to seek out these more artificial breath boosters.

Your cleaning efforts are also monitored by a percentage meter at the top of the screen, too, and washing away the gunk, as well as collecting bottles, cans, plastic rings, and eviscerating black bin liners will make the number gradually tick up toward 100%. One of your mates back on land occasionally chips in with updates on your radio as well, telling you how an area's looking and when wildlife start to return because it's sufficiently clean.

I didn't see a huge number of sea creatures during my demo, but one little dude that did start floating around after me was one of its titular loddles, a kind of adorable pink blob that looks like a proto axolotl. The poor guy had also got gooped on at some point, but I wasn't permitted to use my laser on him, alas - obviously, as you'd expect, you might say, but my radio pal also followed up the order with an ominous "not after what happened last time, mate", which makes me wonder exactly what kind of secret psychopath I'm actually piloting here. Hopefully whoever's behind the diving bell is of perfectly sound mind and it's all perfectly innocent, but it did make me chuckle a bit that all might not be as cosy as it initially seems.

A diver befriends two alien loddles in Loddlenaut
Image credit: Secret Mode

In any case, I eventually paddled back over to one of those aforementioned boost rings, which thankfully acted as a little loddle car wash for him, rinsing him of his cloying slime in one fell swoop. It also meant that I could now carry on without fear of my new friend undoing all my hard work by re-infecting the plants and rocks with his un-laserable grime. A big relief indeed. Plus, once my loddle was clean, I was given the option to "re-home" him in the Flats by telling him to stay put, at which point he did a cute happy flourish and set about making a new habitat for himself.

It's all very wholesome, but relaxing, too, giving you a satisfying cleaning experience with the controller rumble and automated zapping, while also giving your brain some light survival challenges so it's not just a complete, mindless cakewalk. Even better, it's currently got a free demo you can play on Steam as part of this month's Next Fest, so why not give it a go yourself? It's not yet clear whether later levels will give you more tools to tackle stubborner stains, or whether you'll have other nasties to avoid as you go about your cleanup, but I'm looking forward to finding out when Loddlenaut launches next month on November 16th.

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