Shop-keeping games are a staple of the cozy genre, offering players the chance to live out their entrepreneurial dreams in idyllic settings. Mineko’s Night Market aimed to take the genre’s staple mechanics and elevate them – with cats. There certainly isn’t a shortage of these adorable critters throughout the story, and they definitely perfect the cozy vibes of this crafting and shop-keeping title.
However, while the atmosphere, music, and artwork of Mineko’s Night Market are incredible, there are a few hurdles that impact gameplay. An incredibly slow start in accessing major mechanics, mixed with a frustrating economy system, turns warm fuzzies into consternation as even Ramune becomes an investment too steep to justify.
- Release Date: September 26, 2023
- Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5
- Price: $19.99
- Developer/Publisher: Meowza Games/Humble Games
Mineko’s Night Market Merges Fairytales With Hard Reality
From the start of the game, players learn that Mineko’s Night Market isn’t just a relaxing, cozy game. Taking on the role of Mineko, a little girl moving to a new town with her father, players are plunged into the hardships of settling into a new place. The home they purchased isn’t at all like it was pictured in the ads; the town itself seems run down and barren, and the townsfolk lack the gumption to push for change.
Additionally, strange people called “Agents” have invaded the town, investigating a strange phenomenon that prevents the locals from being able to access areas that were once part of their town freely. This all culminates in a harrowing adventure just minutes after arriving. Mineko falls into a river and is rescued by a strange entity – the same being the Agents seem to be investigating.
To avoid story spoilers, we won’t reveal anything about the entity in this review. However, the fast-paced entry into the story is definitely an attention grabber and imparts a sense of urgency in unraveling all the secrets the game holds.
In addition to this, players are also given a look at the tender relationship between Mineko and her father as he navigates the guilt of dragging her to a new home, and she processes the requirements of creating new friends, bonding with new people, and establishing a place for herself in the odd little town.
Nothing is Cheap in Mineko’s Night Market
It isn’t uncommon for early items in cozy games to be expensive, but Mineko’s Night Market takes starting-game poverty to new heights. When getting started, players will have 100 in-game dollars to purchase goods. From here, all additional funds must be earned at the Night Market on Saturdays. At the market, players sell the crafts they’ve made at their crafting table for a profit, with the rest of the week dedicated to foraging crafting materials and creating adorable items.
However, everything has a cost in Mineko’s Night Market. Picking flowers, chopping wood, mining ores, and any other tasks cost precious energy. Food and drinks to restore energy cost money. Tools, crafting table upgrades, and even bribing Agents cost money as well. With only one profitable day a week and limited customers to buy items, this can make every purchase a painful investment.
The hardest part about this process is that if players decide to upgrade a tool or a table, they may not have enough money to purchase snacks for energy. Because the cost of every action is quite high, this can leave players with very little energy to do anything throughout the week. It can also result in a lack of materials to use for crafting, limiting sales in the market.
While the grind is satisfying in games where you can earn daily funds, this type of process feels like a punishment at points in Mineko’s Night Market and often left me very frustrated with how to manage and budget time, energy, and money. A patch to balance energy would make these issues much less frustrating and offer those in the early game more ways to engage and get invested.
A Very Slow Start Bogs Down Engagement
One of the most important aspects of playing a cozy game is the routine. The steady thrum of farming, foraging, exploring, and crafting creates an addictive loop that pulls players in and keeps them engaged. Oftentimes, this routine is introduced in the early tutorials of the game and is quickly expanded to ensure players have an adequate variety of goals to focus on as they get started on their farm, shop, or new town.
Unfortunately, Mineko’s Night Market has an unclear tutorial timeframe that drags on for weeks in-game, but it lacks quests and objectives to complete in between major goals. For me, this made getting into the game difficult. After days of picking flowers, I was ready for something new to do, but every day I woke up, it was essentially the same. Pick flowers, craft bouquets, repeat.
As an avid, cozy gamer, I am always looking for that groove and want to have several options for how to spend my time and energy. Without goals or options for what I could do, I felt frustrated and bored. I knew there was more beyond the first few weeks, but getting there seemed like a grind I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep pushing for. Once other crafting tables and areas were open, it was more fun to plan my day, but the limited energy issues made it so that instead of just picking flowers, I could choose just to harvest paper. This made weeks long and tedious.
Mineko’s Night Market is a beautiful game. Its soundtrack and artwork are delightful; I could listen to the music all day and never tire of it. Unfortunately, the energy, money, and early-game task balances really left me questioning if I liked the game. I think it could be delightful with a few patches to balance and smooth aspects of gameplay. I just wanted to be able to do more because I could see all potential, but it always felt out of reach.
Hopefully, the game will receive some post-launch love to help balance some of these gameplay elements because with a few tweaks, it would be easy to fall in love with Mineko’s world. Right now though, it’s just hard to say yes to.
7 / 10
|+ Beautiful art and music|
|+ Amazing mini-games and interesting story hooks|
|– Economy balance and energy use are restrictive|
|– Early-game doesn’t introduce new concepts quickly enough|
Gamepur team received a Nintendo Switch code for the purpose of this review.