Cozy games tend to have players chasing smaller goals that don’t usually involve the state of the entire world being at risk. There are no grand adventures to be had, and the biggest threat you’ll face tends to be figuring out how to earn income to keep the wheels turning. Mineko’s Night Market takes a similar approach that will feel familiar to fans of the genre while creating a welcoming environment for newcomers to enjoy.
The popularity of Cozy games has been on the rise ever since Stardew Valley came out. Both AAA and Indie developers have been chasing the same level of popularity since its release, and it has created a renaissance of sorts with cozy games.
The game starts with the titular character Mineko moving to a new island located at the base of Mount Fugu. The cute little town is home to a wacky cast of characters and a mysterious superstition that seems to have popped up around the island. The Sun cat, Nikko, has apparently been spotted throughout the island and this has the town puzzled. Although this kind of mystery would usually be enough to attract all sorts of tourists, the struggling village has instead caught the attention of a secret agency that is interested in these sightings. With the help of her father and some of the villagers, including her business partner BoBo, Mineko gets pulled into the mystery of Nikko while figuring out how to help the village regain its former glory.
Right away, you’ll notice just how interesting the characters in this tale are. While Mineko is more on the quiet and calm side, everyone she interacts with tends to be on the wackier side. Her father has all sorts of nicknames for his daughter and even fails to introduce her properly to the villagers, instead calling her names like melonhead. Bobo, her partner in crime, is obsessed with the mystery surrounding the Nikko sightings. He runs a made up company called Bobo Mystery Solvers Incorporated, but if that name seems a bit long, don’t worry since he has a tendency of changing it every time he brings it up. I could go on about all the different characters and their quirks since each one is vastly different from the other, but the cast is only a small part of what makes this a wonderful gem.
While exploring the Island and talking to the villagers, Mineko learns about a special event that the village hosts from two characters called Left Cat and Right Cat. Every Saturday night the village hosts something called the Night market where different people set up stalls and sell all sorts of goods. Along with the stalls, there are games to be played and prizes to be won. Mineko ends up with a booth of her own, and that’s where the fun really begins, gameplay revolving around getting yourself set up to sell any crafts that you produce.
Since the night market revolves around the villagers selling oddities that they have, Mineko is in charge of creating stuff for her stall. Scattered throughout the island are different materials that you can pick up and then use as crafting components to make new things to sell. Since the night market is only open on Saturday nights, Mineko will end up spending most of her time running around the island collecting stuff for crafting, as well as fulfilling requests for villagers, unlocking even more crafting recipes. Thankfully, there is an in-game journal that keeps track of the relationship meter for each villager as well as any current objectives.
Instead of just clicking through menus to craft items or interacting with the world to automatically get resources, you’ll find yourself playing even more mini-games in order to achieve success. For example, the little flower baskets that Mineko makes are made up of wild flowers that are found growing on the island. This means that Mineko would have to trim up the stems in order to size them all up to fit into a basket shape. The mini-game here has you timing your button press to stop an arrow along a certain part of the stem. Landing it in the yellow areas will net you a regular basket, while hitting the green spot rewards you with a perfect variation that would sell for more. I often found myself really focusing in on these moments just so I could get the most out of my findings.
During the night market, you will ring a bell to indicate that your shop is now open. Villagers will come ask for certain items that you have put up for sale. Unlike the regular shops during the week, the night market allows you to negotiate prices in order to get more money than the regular shops would give. Depending on your relationship with the villagers, their willingness to spend more money than expected will vary. Once you’ve sold off your inventory, there are the options to go play mini-games or even spend time visiting other stalls .
When you aren’t gathering items in preparation for the night market, you will be spending time finding out more about Nikko’s relationship with the village. The appearance of the Sun god has caught the attention of agents who are capturing cats as well as messing with shrines spread throughout the island. These agents will block off sections of the island in an attempt to keep Mineko and the villagers out of their business.
They have blocked off different spots on the island in order to track down Nikko and the locations are home to shrines that hold mysterious artifacts and a lot of cats. The agents have locked the cats up in cages, so Mineko has to break them out before she is able to explore the area freely. As you free the cats from their enclosures, the agents will just give up and walk away. Some of the agents will patrol a small section of the map, while others will simply turn to face different directions. Each agent will have a cone of vision that you will have to avoid while freeing the cats. Bobo will occasionally tag along and offer to distract or bribe the agent to get their attention but sneaking is a viable option to save the caged cats. Once you free all the cats in the area, the agents will leave and allow you to interact with the shrine they were guarding.
The visuals found here are chock-full of cuteness and personality. Characters are adorable,and stand out against the serene background of the village. There is a beautiful soundtrack , and I found myself drifting away with each little melody as I scavenged around for new stuff to stock my shop with. Mineko’s room is decorated with a work bench given to her by a fellow villager, and she even has a cute dresser that is shaped like a giant cat. When you exit out of that menu, there is even a little sound that mimics a cat’s meow. Each character is written with a plethora of jokes in mind and while some of them are extremely cheesy, the art style helps deliver these light-hearted jokes that had me smiling the entire time.
Mineko’s Night Market is the perfect example of how mechanics can interact together without being overwhelming. The loop of finding materials and then crafting them to gear Mineku up for the night market was captivating and held my attention for hours on end. There were moments where I had to make the tough decision of using the materials for crafting or giving them away to fulfill a villager’s request. Occasionally, Villagers will be looking for a specific item that can be picked up throughout the island or bought in shops. By fulfilling these requests, you are able to build up the relationship between Mineko and the villagers. Building these relationships will reward you with new crafting recipes, as well as boost your chances of selling items at a higher price when they visit during the night market segment. While these requests are not logged in your journal, you are able to talk to them at any point in time during the day to get a reminder of what it is they are looking for.
This is one of those games that shows exactly just how fun cozy games can be when they focus on quality over quantity. If you are a fan of cozy games and love having an abundance of cats to pet, then this is the Purr-fect title for you.
- Mechanics engage well with one another
- Visuals fit the cue aesthetic that the game strives for
- The night market is an interesting way to drive the player to continue to interact with villagers and crafting
- he mystery of Nikko and the agents is mixed in with the gameplay loop in a satisfying way
- Loading between screens can be a bit on the longer end
- There is a bit of a lag when exiting the journal menu.
Xavier grew up playing classics like Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, and Silent Hill, so the indie scene has been full of love letters for him.
A perfect day for him includes hours of grinding out levels and exploring creepy hallways in scary games.