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Platform: PC

Minami Lane Review

Small town living

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There is an almost countless number of games found in the sub-$10 price point. Most of them are focused on replayability, and the majority tend to be either custom experiences, or puzzles. They can dazzle with their visuals and art styles, or interesting one-note mechanics. But few attempt to enter this casual market with more traditional genres, such as town management – but that’s the risk that indie developers Doot and Blibloop have taken with Minami Lane. This charming, casual game manages to offer an engaging experience at an extremely affordable price.

Minami Lane game

Players meet a tanuki-style character Ema who introduces them to this Japan-style community street, where you'll be running businesses and adding new buildings in order to increase local population and keep them happy. From an isometric camera, you get to observe an abstract small street with just a couple of buildings. Before starting the day, you can use available funds to construct a new building, which is automatically placed and extends the length of the street. You then begin the day and can observe villagers walking about, meeting each other, using the buildings and spending money. At the end of the day, there is a summary screen that offers key information, such as how much money was made, the level of overall satisfaction, and what areas need improvement. You make the necessary adjustments to your buildings, and then begin the next day. It's a simple gameplay loop, but it works and has a decent amount of depth to make things at least a little bit engaging – though it remains firmly a casual game.

There are a few different building types that can be placed, with more getting unlocked as you progress through the five included missions. Initially you can only build a noodle shop, inside which you can adjust the recipe of the noodles. Then, you observe customers and can click on them to see their thoughts, which provide details on how to improve their rating and achieve maximum satisfaction. They will think about wanting more or less of a specific ingredients, or that the price is too high or low. You then make adjustments before the next day, and after a few attempts the perfect formula can be achieved. It is sometimes annoying to click on villagers and stop/resume time so they don't walk off-screen and you lose their feedback. That feedback can be saved for convenience of not having to memorize what needs to be adjusted.

A similar gameplay loop happens when you start building florists, who also have a tweakable flower arrangement recipe. The other types of shops are combinis (convenience store) and book stores, where players select what they want to sell from short list of items, such as coffee and different types of books, and set the prices. Similarly, you can read thoughts of customers who visit these locations and adjust the items and their prices accordingly.

Minami Lane game

Finding the perfect recipe is just one factor for success. Players also need to grow their population, which consists of three groups – youths, seniors, and aliens (because why not). These groups have different tastes and cost expectations, so you'll need to occasionally place two of the same type of shop, but with different settings – such as two noodle shops selling different recipes at different prices. The villagers will go to the shop they find most appealing automatically. To increase the population level of a specific group, appropriate buildings must be placed – apartments for youths, senior homes for seniors. But as population grows, so does their demand for keeping the street beautiful. You'll have to place buildings such as parks and onsens (natural hot springs) that boost the beauty rating, and observe as the villagers visit and enjoy themselves.

These buildings, like homes, do not bring any profits. But money is usually not a problem and not the focus of the game – your shops will make income, and it's just a matter of waiting a day or two and having enough to afford the next building you want. To add a little more strategy to the mix, existing buildings can be demolished for a small refund, or they can be upgraded once to either increase profit, increase villager numbers, or increase the beauty rating.

There are some minor annoyances. The gameplay loop does begin to repeat a little, as in each level you have to spend a few days each time to find the recipe and price points that satisfy the villagers. Once you've read the thoughts of the villagers and know what to adjust, there's nothing to do but fast-forward time to the end of the day, which is over in just a few moments. You can click on some garbage and collectibles, or pet cats, for a little extra money for that day. The end-of-day stats summary screen displays useful information, but it feels a little like information overload for a game that's trying to be simple and relaxing.

Minami Lane game

All of these town-management mechanics are simple, but are just engaging enough to keep you playing. The game consists of five levels with different gameplay focuses, each introducing something new, and offering a bonus objective like reaching the target within a certain number of days, or by constructing only a few buildings. You can still keep playing in a level after beating it, or you can venture into the Sandbox mode, which offers either the free-build option with unlimited funds and all buildings, or a structured progression with limited money and unlock requirements for buildings. Even so, the levels can be usually beat within 15 minutes or so, and thus the whole experience lasts for maybe an hour or two. But given that the game only costs $4, it seems appropriate.

In fact, limited content aside, Minami Lane could have easily reached for a higher price point, with its presentation and gameplay mechanics. While very by-the-book, the town management does feel engaging and provides a few hours of entertainment, especially if you decide to delve into Sandbox mode. The menus are clear and do feel very mobile-game styled, but are functional. The visuals are cute and clean, with a nice art style that could make you mistake it for a higher priced offering. Players can customize the colors and roofs of the buildings they place, and future upgrades to the buildings also change their appearance, letting you create lots of different versions of this street. The simple and upbeat background music fits the setting well.

There are plenty of games in the very low price end of the market, but few look and play as solidly as Minami Lane. Sure, its mechanics are hardly innovative, and you won't find much challenge or complexity here. Even so, the gameplay is just engaging enough to keep you playing for the hour or two that the campaign lasts, and many will probably keep going beyond that thanks to the Sandbox mode. It's a charming and idyllic way to spend a few hours, and though there are a few very minor qualms, you can hardly ask for more from the very low $4 asking price.

Our ratings for Minami Lane on PC out of 100 (Ratings FAQ)
A charming art style and a simple but fitting soundtrack.
The mechanics are basic, but just engaging enough to keep you playing.
Single Player
The included chapters are brief, and follow the typical management game formulas, but are satisfying to complete and match the very low asking price.
(Show PC Specs)
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5700X
GPU: AMD 6700 XT 12GB
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
PC Specs

No issues experienced and runs well.
Minami Lane is a nice-looking, bite-sized town management game that offers an engaging slice of gameplay for a very low price.
Minami Lane
Minami Lane box art Platform:
Our Review of Minami Lane
The Verdict:
Game Ranking
Minami Lane is ranked #545 out of 1971 total reviewed games. It is ranked #6 out of 25 games reviewed in 2024.
544. Jusant
Xbox Series X
545. Minami Lane

Minami Lane
8 images added 52 days ago
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