Backlog Busters: Minami Lane Is A Tiny But Addictive Management Sim

Welcome back to Backlog Busters, a column dedicated to clearing our never-ending video game backlog. Today we’re covering a tiny but addictive indie game that came out earlier this year, Minami Lane by Doot and Bliploop!

Here’s what you need to know: Minami Lane is a small, wholesome management game set on a Japanese-inspired street. Create and manage your own street, make sure everyone is happy, and watch the villagers live their lives at the start of each day.

Developed by: Doot and Bliploop

Played on: Steam

Length: 2 hours

A short, substantial experience

Minami Lane is a tiny street-building game that takes around two hours to complete, but don’t mistake its length for a lack of substance. This compact management game is packed to the brim with thoughtful strategy, adorable customisation, and a surprising amount of challenge.

The basic goal of the game is to maximise your villagers’ happiness levels. How you get there is a delicate balancing game between your finances, your street’s beauty level, and the number of villagers you have. As the street designer, you have control over every single building down to the inventory, prices, and ingredients used in your stores. That’s where the game starts to get interesting.

Minami Lane is akin to a turn-based strategy game in the sense that most of the gameplay happens as you’re planning for your next “turn”. The first store the game introduces you to is the ramen restaurant, where you can adjust everything from the type of ingredients to the amount of profit you make from each bowl. Eventually, the game introduces you to even more adorable stores like a karaoke bar, florist, and konbini.

Once you’re done tweaking your stores, you can start the day and observe your villagers as they react to your street. It’s interesting to watch the live feedback from villagers and infer what improvements you need to make. This part of the game reminds me of bigger city builder games like Cities: Skyline, but even more satisfying as you get to tweak everything down the finer details.

Each level cuter than the last

Each level of Minami Lane offers different main goals and optional objectives to achieve, and each one is cuter than the last. From attracting more cats to your street, to catering your stores to different age groups, the game does a good job of challenge scaling and keeping you actively thinking throughout the short experience.

One of the most interesting challenges is curating your stores to cater to both young and elderly villagers. Each age group has different tastes, item preferences, and even spending habits, which adds to the challenge of narrowing down their likes and dislikes. This is fairly challenging at first, especially since you have to manually click on villagers to see their feedback.

Thankfully, the game does add on quality of life features as it amps up the difficulty. This includes helpful features like the ability to save feedback to review again later, and being able to hire a Tanuki to conduct market research for you. By the end of the game, you’ll be an efficient street designing machine.

Japanese-inspired isometric art style

The most outstanding aspect of Minami Lane is definitely its pastel, isometric art style. You can tell the developers had fun amping up the cute levels, from the Japanese-inspired elements and buildings, to the ability to customise the look and colours of each building.

I personally loved exploring the different building designs, and seeing all the tiny illustrations that went into each inventory and ingredient. Players who love this aspect of the game can also check out Sandbox Mode, where you can build your perfect Minami Lane street without any restrictions.

Verdict: A much-needed respite

Minami Lane is a much-needed respite from the hustle and bustle of life. The game takes approximately two hours to complete, but offers a surprisingly challenging management experience that will keep you actively thinking throughout your playthrough. Not to mention, its adorable illustrations and pastel aesthetics are bound to have you falling in love.

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