About a third of the way through Mineko’s Night Market, a young boy dressed as a fish remarks that sending the local errand kid on missions seems to be the only way people acquire things on the island. This is a comic jab at the player’s role as the local errand kid, who spends hours fulfilling the desires of the town’s residents. After moving to this rural backwater with your dad, it becomes clear that no one in this town has any motivation to do anything themselves.
As Mineko, it is your job to collect resources, buy and deliver items, and complete various crafting tasks for the townspeople. The lack of industry and self-sufficiency in this town is glaring, and it’s hard to imagine how anyone managed before you arrived. However, this dialogue also reveals the joyless experience that Mineko’s Night Market offers. Despite its lovely visuals, the game revolves around self-centered NPCs who demand favors and offer nothing in return but repetitive tasks and tedium. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of cute cats; this game is far from cozy and endearing like Animal Crossing.
Initially, Mineko’s Night Market’s gameplay loop of collecting resources, earning money, and unlocking new areas feels well-balanced. There’s enough variety to keep daily tasks interesting, and the motivation to earn money for new tools and progress further is compelling. Fishing, tree-chopping, flower-picking, and rock mining become routine activities, and the weekly night market allows for big earnings. However, the game falls short in other areas. The museums where you can donate samples of collected items lack visitors, and the relationships with villagers boil down to repetitive requests and empty rewards.
As you progress in the game, Mineko’s Night Market loses its charm. The high costs for story-critical tools and the need to hoard resources for progression make the gameplay feel like a slog. The repetitive mini-games for resource gathering become tiresome, and the overall experience becomes a frustrating grind. Additionally, underwhelming stealth sequences and lackluster exploration dampen any excitement of discovering new locations.
In the later stages of the game, when the objective shifts to hoarding resources instead of earning money, Mineko’s Night Market loses its sense of purpose. The gameplay becomes repetitive, and the lack of creative expression or personalization limits player engagement. The overall experience feels unenjoyable, with various aspects of the game clashing with each other and pulling the player in different directions. As the local errand kid, your work may never be appreciated, and the more time you invest in the game, the more unsatisfied you may feel.
This review is based on a review build of the game provided by publishers Humble Games.