DSiWare Game Review: Supermarket Mania

I recently reviewed the PC release of Supermarket Mania 2, and found it a ‘casual thrill ride’. I noted the basic plot from the original game – but I had never played it! It has been available for a while for the PC & Mac, came to the iPhone in early 2009, was released for the iPad and as a PSP Mini earlier this year, and has now arrived on the Nintendo DSi as part of the DSiWare store! Let’s take a look!

The Hype:
In Supermarket Mania, you’ll have to help Nikki operate a small grocery store; satisfying the needs of increasing demanding customers. Nikki’s main goal is to keep all the shelves of her store stocked, so customers don’t lose patience and find another food store to shop at. Nikki also has to keep the store clean – she wouldn’t want a lawsuit from a customer who tripped over trash! If Nikki works hard and fast, she’ll earn enough money to upgrade her store and compete with the big supermarket conglomerate in town, the Torg Corporation.

Features of Supermarket Mania include:
* 50 Levels in Story Mode
* Endless Shift Mode and extra bonuses
* Five Shops
* Seven types of customers
* Over a dozen products to sell
* Over 20 upgrades for your shop
* 3D Art and Comic-Book Style cut scenes between each level

The Reality:

The first critical thing to note: this game is DSiWare, meaning that unless you have a DSi you can’t even access the store to buy this. Also, the game isn’t sold in stores, rather you need to purchase ‘Nintendo Points’ either using a credit card on your DSi or via a points card you can pick up at any store selling gift cards (which is pretty much everywhere now!).

The game starts off as Nikki is newly hired at a large chain of stores operated by the Torg corporation, run by Torg and his evil robot empire! (No, really!). She is hired but seemingly set up to fail as she is being watched by Torg and his minions. The goal seems to be to evaluate how she does things to copy her and make her redundant!

My first and only real complaint is with the story – or more specifically the presentation. Whereas the PC version has a full comic book style cutscene in between levels, on the DS you get a sort of browser. On the bottom screen there is the full multi-panel comic book scene, with a small rectangle. You use the stylus to pan the rectangle to zoom in on areas which are then displayed in real-time on the top screen. It is the best possible solution without totally redoing the scenes … but very quickly I stopped enjoying the scenes and just panned to the dialogue to get the facts and move on.

Gameplay is similar to Supermarket Mania 2, in that you are given a goal for the ‘day’ in terms of how much money you need to make, and are told how many types of customers will be coming into your shop. If you are getting a new customer type, you will learn their preferred foods, their speed and patience. This can help you anticipate how to plan the day. If you make sure you keep the shelves stocked, you will meet the ‘expert’ goal level!

Of course, nothing is so simple. If you make people wait while you restock, they tend to buy less of your products. Also, your floors get littered with garbage and if someone trips over it they will leave your shop (fortunately no liability lawsuits!), meaning you won’t hit expert for that day. You need to pick up the trash and put it in the recycle bin – but of course that takes time and you can’t do anything else while attending to the trash (it would be unsanitary!). This means you are trying to streamline efficiency from the very start.

You play as a worker for Torg for the first few levels, and then you are fired and find work with a small down-on-its-luck shop. This is when the game really opens up – you know the basics, now it is time to execute! The customer types vary by level and their differences have a huge impact on the flow of products for the day. If your floors start off dirty you need to simultaneously clean up while stocking critical shelves. The only thing that can help you out is … upgrades!

Before each level after you leave Torg, you have the option to spend some of your money upgrading parts of your operation. For me, I found the struggle with waiting to refill my cart and keep my floors safe and clean the biggest challenges to making expert level early on, so I immediately upgraded both of those. From there I started upgrading areas to make more money per sale, making hitting goals that much easier.

This is a minor niggle and not really specific to Supermarket Mania, but games that constantly reward top-performers create a problem for themselves – those who do well get more rewards, and that allows them to get more updates, making the game easier and therefore allowing them to gain even MORE rewards! Those who struggle just to pass the day successfully get less cash, earn upgrades more slowly, and will therefore always be struggling. Some App Store games allow you to use real money to buy your way to more upgrades, which is one way around it, I suppose.

Technically the game is solid. Load times are quick, the music is pleasant, and the graphics are colorful and detailed as would be expected in a full DS game. The thing to remember – this is NOT a full DS game! That makes the excellent presentation even more impressive.

Pretty much every DSiWare game I have played has been either a cut-down version of an actual game or a bite-sized original game with a single small concept. Supermarket Mania is a full-blown game that will have you forgetting it is supposed to just be a $5 ‘mini game’. You will pass several hours playing through the game, and it is fun to pick up and play every now and then since the customer flow and requirements are random each time!

Here is the trailer for Supermarket Mania DSiWare:

Review: Supermarket Mania DSiWare

Where to Buy: DSiWare Shop on the DSi

Price: ~$5 (500 Nintendo Points)

What I Like: Fast paced and addictive gameplay; Bright and cheery graphics; Worth retrying levels to get Expert rating; Many hours of fun; Great value!

What Needs Improvement: Story presentation is not very engaging;

Categories: Gaming, Reviews

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