There's charm and heart in this game. It's generally fun to play and doesn't disappoint, but I'm not sure I'll ever come back to it. The gameplay is just too stressful. You succeed by memorizing the prices of items and the incredibly convoluted indicators of special customers. As if it isn't enough that you've memorized every price, each item has a different price for when you don't have on on hand. So you're memorizing two prices for every single item. There are only four that you can buy, but it's still too much. Your anvil friend tells you the alternate price of the item before he makes it, but he tells it to you so slowly that you'll seriously hinder your own productivity if you wait to hear it every time. If you just let the game sit idle, the day is over before you know it. You have to lengthen the day by clicking the right options as quickly as you possibly can. Maybe if I put more time in it, I would have every price memorized as thoroughly as I've memorized the issuing cities in Papers Please. But why would I? It isn't as fun to juggle "FIVE. SEVEN. FOUR." around in your head. In Papers Please, there's a distinct theme to everything you have to memorize. The United Federation, for example, has English themed names like Shingleton. There's no relation between swords and the number five. A big pleasure of Papers Please is working out routines and learning certain relations and maxims to help yourself along. There really isn't any of that here. It's all based on strategically pressing buttons when you feel as though it isn't profitable to keep listening in the event that you're given a bad price. The majority of the pleasure that I experienced while playing this game was due to the charming, well-produced aesthetic and the fact that I was CLEARLY profiting well above the minimum requirements.
A few major points of contention, though: With the number of level-ups in the game, there's no way that you'll have enough item slots to buy one of every item. Even then, there's no reason to. Just buying one item in bulk is more than sufficient, while the shop and time upgrades are much more valuable to have. Being able to have the hero hints on screen at all times would help a lot. In Papers Please, you could always set documents in precise ways so as to have the information on hand at all times. In this game, the information goes away after each sale. I'm not sure if it pauses time to open it, either, since it blocks the sun. The really big issue I have is the ending and length. There seem to be NO saves in this game, which is definitely not pleasant. I restarted a LOT playing this game. Whenever I felt that I had lost it and stopped performing at peak efficiency, or missed a hero customer, I would restart. That takes you right back to the beginning. The game seems to be short to accommodate this. That's less than ideal, but it would be passable if it weren't for the ending. It comes out of nowhere. No spoilers, but you're essentially just told "By the way, this is the last level" then "You did it! Congrats!". Could we at least get more than a black screen with a score and lore on it? My score was 4.0/4.0, if anyone is curious. The plot point of the rebellion just seems to evaporate, as though it never mattered. Speaking of the rebellion: I never had the guts to refuse them, but I enjoyed seeing that they were comically incompetent in a few moments. That would make for a nice plot point - A token, self-righteous rebellion that is actually hilariously inept and wrong.
I really can't decide whether this game deserves 3.5 or 4 stars. On the one hand, it seems like the definition of a 4 star game. On the other, it stressed me way more than it should have. Apparently the game gets updates, so I guess I'll leave it at a 4 in the hopes that it improves.