Between FFXIV and my Nintendo Switch, I haven’t really been doing a lot of Steam gaming. Thankfully, I haven’t been doing that much Steam buying, either. In fact, though I haven’t forgotten nor given up on my Steam Challenge to overcome my overwhelming backlog, I’ve decided not to call this post part of the challenge, because it’s not.
I very rarely make impulse purchases on Steam. In fact, I rarely go to the Steam site to browse when a big sale isn’t going on. I’m not sure why I did yesterday, but I noticed a little game called Pixel Shopkeeper was on the front page of the New and Trending section.
Now, I have a huge soft spot for shopkeeping games. I also put some time into Recettear, but not enough to really explore it deeply. I liked what I saw of Recettear, but it was one of those games that felt slightly overwhelming in terms of systems when I was trying to learn it.
Pixel Shopkeeper is straightforward. It feels like a mesh of smaller mini-games, all easy to figure out. It’s an idea game to pick up for short bursts as both the adventure side and shop side only take a few minutes to complete. It would actually be a great tablet game (dare I whisper).
What’s It About?
You’re a graduate of Pixel University, but you’re carrying the burden of a school loan (too close to RL for comfort). So, you open a shop to pay it off.
There’s a small character creation bit, with a few customizations. This is not a major focus of the game, of course, but a nice little touch.
The game is light-hearted and humorous, embracing common net language, memes and fantasy RPG tropes. It’s not ashamed to toss “Generic NPCs” and “Generic World Maps” at you. And all this is completely fine.
The game gives you freedom to do whatever you like with the stipulation that at the end of the week, you have a certain amount due on your loan payoff. There are two parts of the game: the adventuring part, where you fight to secure loot drops, and the shopkeeping part, where you sell your loot drops.
Battle for Loot
If you have no loot, you can’t sell anything. So it’s important to train to increase your stats and abilities, and head to the fields and dungeons to gather stuff to put up for market.
The interesting part about this is that your character battles on their own. The only influence you have over their fight is whether you’ve trained them, geared them up, and if you keep them healed (by dragging herbs to them when herbs drop as loot).
As drops appear, it’s your job to fit as much loot into your bag as possible. This is done in a Tetris mini-game manner, which I found fun and sometimes challenging. Over the course of the game, you can earn or buy different types of bags with different shapes and features.
If your character is defeated, you lose all the loot and the day that you spent trying to earn that loot. If you win, you get to keep everything you bagged on top of treasure from a random chest you choose at the end of the run.
Sell That Loot!
The other half of the game is what happens at your shop when you go back to sell the loot you earned. Your shop starts out small, allowing you to furnish it with tables and stands to place your loot for sale.
As you sell more items, more furnishings become available, some with buffs to item prices and other perks. You also unlock other smaller support systems, such as the ability to polish your loot (makes it more desirable), advertise your shop, buy from other merchants, plant a garden, and even craft new and better loot to sell.
As adventurers walk past your shop, you can click on them to increase the chance they’ll stop, browse, and hopefully buy. You can also click on birds and tumbleweeds to earn extra coins, and sometimes crafting materials. You need to make sure that you keep the displays in your shop clean (just click on them repeatedly), or you may lose a potential sale with the dirty state of your shop.
At the end of the day, you get a summary, and options of what to do next. If you still have plenty of loot to sell, you can set up shop for the next day. If you need to gather more loot, you can head out to tackle monsters.
It’s a pretty simple game, as I said, which slowly introduces new features in small bites. I’ve only spent an hour with it so far, so I’m sure there are a number of other secrets to unlock.
The other thing I lik about Pixel Shopkeeper is the support that the developer is giving this game, despite having already released it. I saw him being very active and receptive to player feedback on the game’s Steam forum. In fact, he has already released two new difficulty levels (a chill mode and a sandbox mode) based on the fact that players found the normal mode a bit too challenging.
It looks like the game is going to get another large patch today, as well. So cheers to the developer for making his customers happy! In fact, I missed the launch sale of this game, and still paid full price for it (a rarity for me), because of all the positive feedback for both game and developer.
Shopkeeping games may not be everyone’s cup of tea. For those who enjoy this little niche of RPG slice-of-life, this is a game to keep your eye on.