Merek is a simple man. He decides to open up a shop. However, another shopkeeper does not like the new competition and is trying to run Merek out of business! Take control of the shop and craft numerous items to sell to customers in Merek’s Market. They all have something specific in mind, so you must cater to their needs. Take too long and the customer will walk out without a purchase. There are also mini-game elements within the time management system. When you sell the customer the item, you must also input a sequence of buttons; if you mess up, your combo meter will suffer resulting in less money. Your day is rated and the aim is to get the maximum score possible. There is a single-player campaign complete with “boss stages” which happen every 10 days. You must build something amazing, like a giant statue or a dance area for the customers. Each time you succeed you will move to a bigger shop. If you have someone else that wants to play, you can play with them in local co-op mode, which is a different experience than the single-player campaign. Will you be able to build an empire or have to sell your store to the competition?
Here’s what I liked:
Medieval Management — I’ve always enjoyed a good time management game. It’s nice to have a cool time period such as this one has. You are making shields, swords, gloves, and all kinds of stuff people need for adventures. As you progress, things will definitely get more difficult. The store evolves and you’ll move into bigger stores with more orders. The way you must choose the order in which you craft really does matter. An example is you have an order for a sword and a belt buckle. The sword takes more time because you have to put two items into a furnace first and wait for it to create a different object. Therefore, you’d want to start the furnace before working on the buckle, because you can create that in the downtime. All the while, customers are walking in and wanting different things. It’s the type of game you’ll be replaying over and over again for a better score. Soon you’ll actually memorize the orders and know exactly what the customers will be wanting. Later on, luckily, you will be shown what orders are coming in, with a bar on the bottom showing you what’s going to be next. There will be times you must decide whether to ring out a customer at the register or start another craft. The longer it takes to ring them out means fewer tips or they just flat out leave your store. There seems to be just the right amount of available items to create. If there were too many you’d probably forget what items to combine to make everything. There’s a book in the shop that has the necessary combinations, but it takes time to read. No one has time to read while customers are pouring in! So you’ll play some practice runs, get the hang of any new items, and become a real pro.
Comical yet Chaotic — Selling items in a shop, or any real-life retail location, can really be frustrating. Customers are often not patient. They feel like something is owed to them for simply being there. Then you have your work drama, typically with other co-workers or management. Well, now you own your own shop! And there is light humor spread throughout. From the characters to the situations, you’ll not be laughing out loud but will appreciate the mild humor. I guess some people may laugh, but it’s more of the situation. You’re by yourself, limited on time, and impatient customers are showing up. Some situations have them wanting an item but you must agree to a price, so there’s haggling involved. So while you’re enjoying the scenes taking place, you’re also frantically running around doing things. At one point there will be an infestation of mice. The mice will appear on certain stages. You will have a store cat that just sits there, licking a paw. You’ll have to run to the cat, pick it up, and set it down for the mice to run away. But the mice will be at different spots in the shop and the cat always seems far away. During these times, you’re also responsible for making items! It’s almost funny what Merek is going through, having so much going on and running around like a madman.
Da Vinci — Every 10th day you’ll have a really difficult task. One which requires a blueprint. You’re on a set timer and must create multiple pieces to build something. These are different than your average sword or shield. They are pillars, wheels, dance floors, and so on. When you finish one piece you will need to do a mini-game, of which there are several. It’s awesome that you get kind of a break from the normal levels. These are always more challenging and rewarding because you’ll move to a different storefront. The final stage is poetry. You have to use all of the skills you’ve learned throughout the other stages. I won’t spoil anything, but you’ll enjoy it. What a great way to wrap up the campaign.
Dollar Dollar Bill — Your score is your money. Every stage has a specific amount they want you to achieve for a gold rating. The faster you serve customers, the more you can earn. It comes to a point where you will keep replaying a level and basically memorize it. Finally getting gold on a stage just feels so good. There are a total of 50 stages, so there are a lot of levels to get good at. I can be proud to say I have mastered every level. I spent around 25 hours total playing and am completely satisfied. Nothing was ever impossible, just really tough. I’d have to change the order of how I made things to see what worked best. Oh, and inputting the button sequences perfectly is a must. One foul-up and you’re restarting the stage. You must keep that multiplier to gain maximum money. And we know it is all about the Benjamins, or the queens, or whatever currency you have.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Nothing to Spend it On — After finishing all of the stages, I was left wondering what my earnings were for. There was no statistics page, nothing to spend this money on, not even a total of how much I accumulated. I wanted to be able to buy something. Anything, really. Give me some concept images, or maybe different customizations like blue gloves instead of red, or a cat that is black or grey. I made a lot of money at my market but there was simply nothing to do with it. There are so many options that could have been implemented that I am dumbfounded when I realized it’s a temporary currency. It’s just your high scores. I wanted to be able to earn something!
Blind Mice — As mentioned earlier, there are mice in the game. While it was fun for a stage or two, I found it a bit too much in the late levels. The last area is quite big, and you cannot see more than a quarter of it at one time. There are four areas. When the mice come marching in, you often don’t realize it and the indicator showing where they are is quite poor and sometimes doesn’t even show up. While enjoying the distraction when they were introduced, I found myself hating their existence in the new stage. In order to get gold, I had to memorize when they were going to show up, but they are random so I had to run around looking for them after looking for the cat. I enjoy making things early to get ready for the next customers but the mice were a pain.
If you love yourself a good time management game, waste no time trying to beat any of the records that I made on any level. I challenge you! I like that you can play with multiple people but sadly it’s only local. I did try it though, by myself with two controllers. It only worked for a few stages and then became impossible. This is a great game. It’s simple yet challenging. There’s an actual desire to get the maximum score (maybe for me because achievements are tied to it). There is just enough challenge without being a lost cause. If you’re a sucker for time management games, you will not be disappointed! Well, at least I wasn’t. But I also loved a phone game called Sally’s Salon. If you want to sweat at the same time you’re smiling, then this is for you.
Score: Must Buy
Merek’s Market was published by and developed by Big Village Games Ltd on Xbox One. It was released on September 15, 2021, for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.