Merek's Market


Merek has a few bugs and really needed online multiplayer, but will still keep you and the family/friends busy and entertained for some time.


You play as the titular Merek, who is opening a new shop in his home town. Thankfully the game seems to be set in medieval times so customers don't just come and check out goods in your shop, complain about the price and then go and buy it online. The locals are a friendly lot and you'll get help from many of the villagers, but mostly from Tess, a West Country lass who supplies you with blueprints for new items.

As a shopkeeper you'll be expected to make items for your customers, and simple instructions on 'how to' come in the form of recipes which consist of one or more items, combined with your workbench, furnace/kiln, or later on cauldron (for potions.) Once made (by holding X) they can be served to a customer at the counter at which point the happy customer then goes over to the till and you can get paid for your labours.
This is done by copying a button sequence (like up, down, left, right, X, Y, A or B).

Making certain basic popular items ahead of demand helps speed up service and adds to your profits, and eventually – 15 levels or so in – Merek will develop psychic powers and know what customers want before they enter the shop, which is obviously very handy. You should definitely try the 2-4 player local co-op mode, in which the game really comes alive as you co-operate in manufacturing items and selling them as quickly as possible. This was great fun with 3 of us but we'd have liked to try with 4. Sadly Merek's Market is another great party couch co-op only game that really would have been fun on Xbox Live.

Sometimes customers will just come in and ask for an item that they will vaguely describe, which you may or may not have on your shop shelf. If you do have something that resembles what they want then you can haggle the price with them. Other "special" customers will ask for custom items and you have to make them up by accessing an extra "special" recipe menu from your desk.

A screenshot from Merek's Market, a zoomed out view of your store with a forge in the back, and a number of colourful displays in the front.

As the game progresses you realise that no matter how big your TV or however many K's it can display, it's not big enough. The shop, presumably due to your brilliance as a shopkeeper but without any real explanation, becomes larger and larger to the point in the co-op game where the view of the shop zooms out to show all players, meaning that the characters and the various icons are SO small we all had great difficulty in making out what the customer wanted – even on a 42" TV. I can only presume this was tested by 2 gamers with eyes like hawks that were sitting with their noses pressed against their 55" 4K TV, not 3 or 4 players sitting in a typical domestic living room trying to have a game with the family.

You can just about get by with the way the shop view zooms out and the microscopic icons, but more evidence of poor (or a lack of) testing is apparent in the only thing we really don't like about MM, which is an intermittent bug that really needs patching. It only occurs in co-op and it means that the button presses during the sequence when you take payment from the customer don't always register, making simply getting paid a frustrating experience. It may well be related to the 'button lag' but we also suffered from an occasional momentary loss of control over our characters when playing the co-op mode too.

A screenshot from Merek's Market, showing a conversation between you and a lavishly-dressed customer. You're saying "Oh not again, I'm not sure I can take any more of your ideas."

Another oddity is that some levels seem to be profit-based (you'll earn a bronze, silver or gold medal depending on how much cash you took on the day) while others are time-dependent, so you may get a gold medal yet fail to advance, which is just weird.

The voice acting is a bit weak but funny and appropriate nonetheless, and several earworm tunes accompany the game, including one (Fluffing a Duck by Kevin MacLeod) that seems to pop up absolutely everywhere right now.

Merek really needed Xbox Live multiplayer, so maybe he can knock up a computer on his workbench and code it in at some point. At only £14.99 MM is pretty good value even with the co-op problems, and will keep you and the family/friends busy and entertained for some time.

Special thanks to Big Village Games and PressEngine for the review code.