From riches to rags and then back to riches again. A tale as old as time. Song as old as rhyme…Beauty and the…wait… this isn’t a Disney movie! It’s Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God. Where the very wealthy Maggioni family has been cursed by the God of Poverty and lost everything to their name. Luckily, the God of Poverty, also known as Coco, is an adorable hamster/rabbit thing that wants to stick around and, with some slight resistance, make things right. To do that, the eldest daughter Patty, is tasked with opening a tavern and filling Coco’s belly in order to “weaken his powers”. The game sets you up for a long journey to success in order to pay off your father’s sudden debts with lots of delicious dishes to learn and cook, battles to fight and ingredients to gather. Which upon reading such boasts myself earlier in the year, I thought, “well dang…this is my kind of game!”. But did it live up to my own, over exaggerated hype? Well, that’s generally what reviews are all about aren’t they?
The Beauty and the Beast
Let’s just get this out of the way first and foremost. This game is a mobile port. The developers over at Rideon released this game on Android OS in 2017. In 2018 they decided to port it over to PC and the Nintendo Switch. There is really very little information floating around about this game, so I have no idea if they changed anything major from this game’s mobile days to when it was brought to PC and console, but it’s mobile-ness definitely shines through in certain places. We’ll get to that in a bit though, since I don’t want to start this review off on a negative note.
The graphics in Marenian Tavern Story are very deeply rooted in anime which was a big plus for me. The portraits for each character are especially cute and have lots of facial expressions during the dialogue portions. While each character definitely had their own sense of style and mannerisms, I did find it a little off putting the way the characters didn’t seem to have their own speech patterns. You know, playing into all those glorious anime tropes. The butler wasn’t overly proper, the smart guy didn’t avoid contractions like the plague, that sort of thing. They all spoke similarly and it kinda took away from their individuality. The butler saying something like “gonna” or “wanna” is just wrong!
Back on track though, the sprite work was on point. Each character sprite is nicely detailed and bursting with charm. The sprite animation was on that level of buttery smooth impressiveness, where I always wonder how they can make a bunch of tiny pixels look so good. The monsters are all equal parts adorable and terrifying, with a good variety of different types to fight. True to RPG style, they all have their own elemental weaknesses and strengths, which I found worked more against you than in your favor. There usually wasn’t enough of a difference in damage when choosing between an appropriate elemental attack and whatever your strongest move happened to be. The bosses in each area are all much higher level than the surrounding enemies, but you are given a choice whether or not to fight them straight away. Oddly enough, the game makes you feel guilty for every boss you fight. Patty often throws some sort of shade about the monster “just protecting its territory” or some nonsense, but what am I going to do…NOT fight it? Come on, Patty!
The music is done well enough, with a singular repetitive tune found throughout most of the game. The battle music had an odd metal-ness to it, that while catchy enough, doesn’t particularly fit in with the game’s resounding cuteness. Though, given some of the equally odd dialogue I encountered, maybe this game is as weird as it is cute?
I Could Use a Genie Right About Now
You do get to have a farm of sorts in this game, but there’s no farming gameplay per se. It’s run by an old man from the village and as long as you give him the materials he needs, he’ll stock the cellar up to your eyeballs with veggies, fruit and meat every 3 days.
The gameplay is simple enough, with relatively basic controls. Moving around with the left analog and mashing the A button to get through your battle menu is about as complicated as it gets.
You need to explore various areas on the map to gather ingredients and will randomly encounter enemies along the way. All battles are turn based and peppered with fairly basic spells and attack moves. For every battle fought, your party will earn points towards different elements and once a member reaches enough points, they gain a new ability corresponding to that element. Wind points gives you a wind move, dark points give you a dark move…you get it. However, the strange and frustrating part of leveling up your party members is that their actual level and stats only increase through feeding them various crafted dishes and not by gaining experience from battles. So really, as long as you have the ingredients you can continually level up your teammates. They do have a “stomach limit,” but that can be circumvented via a consumable called “stomach medicine”. Many times, I just power leveled my characters in large chunks and then didn’t worry about it again until I hit an enemy or region that was too difficult.
You do have to juggle equipment and each character has a load out specific to their job class, but weapons and armor are pretty few and far between and mostly what you pick up are useless accessories. Eventually, you can customize your weapons and armor with orbs that contain different stats and buffs and that’s really where you can turn an “Ok” weapon into a “I’ll never-need-another-weapon” weapon.
Customizing weapons, buying basic ingredients and supplying your farm costs quite a bit of money, which in your typical management game is standard fare. The mobile version of Marenian Tavern Story was no different. You’d have to go about your business busting your hump for every piece of gold until you get the ball rolling and have money to spare for all the luxuries. That is unless you want to drop real money into their app store to buy Jewels, which could then be traded for all manner of things, gold included. You earn jewels in the game as well. One every few battles and another after every few business days. True to the mobile game style, they tease you with the possibilities and it was up to you to avoid temptation and just play the game or drop the cash to move things along.
The PC/console version though…. they upped that temptation tenfold. And this is where the aforementioned mobile-ness reared its ugly head. While there are no longer microtransactions available, they did leave the Jewel store in the menu. And you start out with 100 jewels right out the gate. The most expensive thing in the store was 50-ish jewels and that was to buy an exorbitant amount of in-game gold. So basically, you could circumvent the entire beginning of the game struggle and jump right into buying anything your heart desires, but where’s the fun in that? Come on, Patty!
I did buy a few search tickets with my jewels in the beginning. Mostly because you can only visit one map area once a day, but if you used the search ticket you could sweep the area for ingredients one extra time without having to enter and explore around. I play these kinds of games all the time and I rather enjoy the early struggle, so just buying gold was easy for me to avoid. Where the jewels did get me though, was that during battles if your party gets wiped out you can spend one…that’s right, one singular jewel, to not only keep going in the battle, but fully revive and heal your party while the enemies/boss remain at whatever health/debuffs it had when you died. In the end, only having to spend a jewel or two to not have to start all over again won out and I eventually found myself with terribly under leveled teammates. The jewels killed my drive to constantly level up and update weapons and armor because there was no consequence for dying. Again, you don’t HAVE to spend the jewels, but exploration eventually became a slog and those bosses were horribly cheap, what with their constant spamming of their most devastating move every…single…turn. I’ll admit it, it broke me, and I lost my drive to try.
Ralph Really Wrecked it..
Luckily, Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God isn’t as long as its title. I officially sunk maybe 30 hours into it, but I can’t say I was sad to see those credits roll. It was an intriguing little game that had major potential, but really it boils down to some important mechanics that just fell short and ended up ruining the experience for me. Thus, I can’t fully give my recommendation, but I’ve no doubt there are people out there who would enjoy this game for what it is and be far better than me at avoiding temptation.