Mineko’s Night Market Review

It’s been a few years since the first footage of Mineko’s Night Market piqued many gamers’ interest; its striking artstyle, promises of satisfying crafting and conversations, and vast numbers of feline friends made it stand out in an ever-growing field of cosy games. I have been keenly following its development and was excited to get hands on with the full game so did it live up to my expectations? In short, not even close – for the longer version, read on.

Taking clear influence from the likes of Stardew Valley, Mineko’s Night Market sees the titular character moving to a small village with their dad and facing the prospect of making friends and establishing their rule in a new community. So far, so very generic, but the twist is that there is a mysterious legend of a magical cat called Nikko surrounding the village with sinister Agents in FBI-style suits staking out all the island’s major locations. The central narrative sees Mineko teaming up with other children to release captured cats, foil the Agents’ plans and save Nikko. This plot is broken up by an endless stream of repetitive foraging and crafting activities and disappointingly charmless dialogue with an assortment of mostly unlikeable and one-dimensional characters.

This summary may sound a little harsh, and to some extent it is, but the various gameplay loops in Mineko’s are hideously over-exposed through longer play sessions. The incredibly superficial mechanics quickly began to grate and I was having to force myself to persevere for the sake of this review. It is clear that this style of game is intended more as a daily snack than a feast and short sessions of underwhelming gameplay may help to conceal Mineko’s mechanical shortcomings, but the lack of polish and wafer thin characters will still be apparent.

The daily pattern of Mineko’s Night Market is set very early as you go out and forage for materials before crafting various recipes to sell at the weekly Night Market – a mysterious event that tries to bring the island together in a celebration of… capitalism, I guess? This provides both the context for many of the game’s themes and developments but also the rigid structure that becomes predictable. You are encouraged to take crafted items to the Market to sell for profits but the opportunities each week are limited and I soon resorted to simply selling to the craft shop in the village instead in order to speed up my progress through the game. This approach was more effective, but still fell victim to the repetition and grind – the latter being particularly egregious in the mid-game.

Early profits must be spent on tools and workbenches – the former opens up new areas to visit whilst the latter enables new crafting options from the materials you find in these new areas. Every resource material requires a minigame to gather and these are one of the weakest parts of an underwhelming game. Most materials have an axe-swinging game in which you hold the action button between two points in a manner reminiscent of arcade golf games and I must have done this one minigame thousands of times in my time with the game. Once you’ve endured the boring resource collection you then have to complete more minigames to craft items to sell, with perfect results producing higher quality ones and mistakes wasting those resources.

This monotonous loop continues across the game’s runtime and never really develops. Yes, there are more complex items to craft that require more varied resources, but aside from character quests the relative extra profit is rarely worth the extra resource collecting. Even more egregious here is that one late game quest requires a collection of flowers from all four seasons in the game but the thrust towards crafting and selling means that you will almost certainly have used all your early season flowers without knowing they would be needed. This then means that you either have to skip weeks to get back to the requisite season again or hope that another merchant will sell them at the Night Market.

The only other real game mechanic at play here is the minimal exploration required in accessing new areas. Every area is patrolled by Agents following set paths whilst they guard island cats in cages. In order to progress you have to free the cats to scare away the Agents and then be able to access the unique resources. This would be fine if the complete lack of any challenge or noticeable AI on the part of the Agents didn’t make these sections an extra lowlight into a very dim showing.

At launch, the game suffered from a game-breaking bug in one late game section that prevented a level from loading properly, though this has now been patched by the developers, so you can reach the end of the story.

Mineko’s Night Market goes down as one of my biggest disappointments of the year. The early promise is entirely squandered through inane conversations, repetitive minigames and a feeling more akin to a mobile game loop than a cosy game. The art style and plethora of cats are cute, but I’m afraid this is one to avoid.
  • Lovely artstyle
  • Cats aplenty
  • Wide range of items to craft
  • Massively repetitive
  • Zero challenge
  • Tiresome minigames
Written by
Just your average old gamer with a doctorate in Renaissance literature. I can mostly be found playing RPGs, horror games, and oodles of indie titles. Just don't ask me to play a driving game.