New Game Review

Review – Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God (Switch)

I got bills to pay, I got mouths to feed!

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and that can easily be applied for the game I’m going to talk about. Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God (let’s just shorten it to Marenian from now on) is a game that underwhelmed me at first glance due to its really poor presentation and boring dialogue. Many hours later, here I am, unable to stop playing this game. One that I can safely say is one of the hidden gems released for the Switch in 2018.

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Given how you can only gain experience by eating food, you can literally farm for EXP in this game…

Marenian starts off as a simple story about a rich girl, her brother, and her butler moving to a brand new locale in a new town when out of the blue, for reasons I don’t want to actually spoil, her family loses all of their money and she’s forced to raise some cash in order to pay off debts. The way you’re going to do this is simple: you’re given a tavern to manage and it’s up to you to come up with new recipes, search for new ingredients, sell food to customers, and so on. Oh, there’s also an actual JRPG combat system included.

That’s right, the main story here doesn’t involve magical powers, empires, or your typical JRPG clichés, even though traditional elements such as slimes, orcs, mana and cute fluffy talking animals are present. You’re here for the Benjamins, baby. You want to pay some bills and make some bucks in order to be able to buy more food the following day. Simply calling Marenian a JRPG is like calling Dark Souls a difficult game; you’re not entirely wrong, but there’s just so much more to it that giving it such a summarizing label is actually a disservice.

During the course of your business day, you can go to one “dungeon”, explore it, grab as many free ingredients as you can from it, defend yourself against monsters (which can also provide you with extra ingredients and items), go back home, buy some extra food from a supply shop nearby, grow your own crops, go straight to the kitchen and either come up with recipes of your own or make recipes based off what NPCs will tell you, then prepare that evening’s menu. You need to figure out how much of certain food you will offer while noticing trends among your customers. If you keep on serving the same damn food over and over again, they’ll just stop buying that dish and even start avoiding your tavern in the first place. As you can see, this isn’t just a JRPG, but also a dungeon crawler, a cooking game, and a business simulator.

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Am I running a tavern or a vegan restaurant in San Francisco?

The JRPG elements are simple, but given the vast amount of genres included in Marenian, simplicity works for the best. The combat system is very basic and fights don’t take long to end. Random encounters aren’t overwhelmingly frequent, turning the act of exploring dungeons in search of food a nearly painless ordeal. One neat addition to the core concept of the game is the fact that you don’t level up by battling. While you can learn new abilities by fighting monsters, you actually level up by eating the same food you offer to your tavern patrons, meaning that you need to think about your stomach as well as your clientele’s stomachs while cooking your dishes.

I have to admit that I didn’t care that much for the story, mostly due to the boring dialogue. Thankfully, you can skip any scene you want and it doesn’t hinder the game’s core loop in any way. Back when I used to play Paper Mario and its Gamecube sequel, I must have lost count of the hours I’ve spent trying to look for all of the ingredients and recipes in these games. Marenian just ended up building on the simple foundations of these sidequests.

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Oh yeah, this IS a JRPG after all…

Marenian Tavern Story doesn’t feature great graphics, its sound design is decent at best, and its dialogue is headache-inducing, but it managed to win me over thanks to an innovative mixture of genres and an extremely entertaining gameplay loop. This is easily the best game I’ve played by KEMCO ever since the company started to dedicate itself solely to making (tons and tons of) JRPGs. Though I have to admit, I still crave for the day they decide to bring Top Gear and Shadowgate back from the dead…

 

Graphics: 5.5

The mixture between polygonal environments and pixelated characters is indeed cute, but the game is beyond simplistic in its looks.

Gameplay: 8.5

An interesting gameplay loop consisting of exploring dungeons, defeating enemies, collecting ingredients, buying extra items, cooking food for your tavern, collecting cash and repeating the process.

Sound: 6.5

Though MIDI-based, the soundtrack is actually pretty good. The same can’t be said about the sound effects, or borderline lack thereof.

Fun Factor: 9.0

The game’s story might be silly and the dialogue can be cringeworthy at times, but I won’t deny I fell in love with its simple but very addicting gameplay loop.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God is available now on PS4, Switch and mobile.

A copy of Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God was provided by the publisher.

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About Leo Faria

Founder and mastermind behind Way Too Many Games, hailing from the southern swag that is São Paulo, a Sega widower who considers the Dreamcast to be the greatest console ever released, the greatest Guitar Hero and Tetris player you’ll ever meet. My favorite games include Perfect Dark, Banjo-Tooie, the Guitar Hero series, Bioshock Infinite and Star Wars Rogue Squadron II. I also own an Ouya. Never turned it on.

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