When was the last time you went out for dinner and ordered farmer's cheese and a bucket of water? Well, you've obviously never been to Miriel's restaurant. Miriel the Magical Merchant is an amusing medieval-inspired time management game that sends players scampering around the kitchen, cooking up magical dishes to serve to picky customers.
With numerous food items to combine, and multiple endings to unlock, there's plenty of creative elements that make Miriel stand out from the crowd.
Ever since the mysterious disappearance of her father, Miriel's been struggling to manage the family's magical food shop. With just two months to pay an enormous debt, you're her only hope... assuming you want to help at all. The storyline is interactive, offering you multiple chances to affect the outcome by selecting from a variety of dialog options. Your choices influence your alignment towards good or evil, so you can try to predict the outcome as you play.
Although there are several “magical” components, the game is more medieval in theme than fantasy. The characters include monks, noblemen, wizards, sea captains, and an assortment of commoners. The in-game food ingredients are also fairly typical of the middle ages, including items like bread, cheese, milk, apples, cake, eggs, and pails of water.
To play, you must serve the customers that come into Miriel's shop. Most items they request will have to be ordered. To do this, you need to click on the item at the bottom of the screen, and wait for it to appear on the table. Once it has appeared, you can click on it and bring it to the customer.
Other special items, like apples and strawberries, are stored in bins next to the counter. You can take one of these at a time, but must wait for them to replenish on their own before you can take another. Miriel can only carry a few items at a time, starting with two, but works her way up as she goes.
Once unlocked, some items can be combined and “cooked” to form new items. This is done by taking the two ingredients, and placing them in the oven. For example, combining milk + milk makes “cheese.” Or, combining apple + apple = apple jam, or water + flour = bread, or flour + egg = cake.
There are 19 unique combination items to make. When the new foods are cooked, they will appear on the stool next to the oven. Items just out of the oven will be fresh for a few seconds, and will earn you bonus cash if you can serve them right away.
Customers have limited patience, illustrated by hearts over their heads. If they lose patience, they will leave the shop without paying. You can increase their patience with candy. Your goal is to earn cash, which is left behind by satisfied customers. Money on the counter will disappear after a short time, so don't leave it too long.
If you can serve customers quickly enough, you'll earn golden wings. These wings fuel the “haste device” power-up. This haste device is pretty useful, and speeds up Miriel substantially when activated.
All in all there are 60 levels to play, with 10 different neighborhoods, so you can expect at least 6 hours of game play to get one ending.
So many things stand out in Miriel the Magical Merchant, but one of the most notable is the artwork. It's anime style and looks professionally drawn, with lots of character. There are small details, like facial expressions, which give the game it's own personality. You won't find many animations – characters just hop along rather humorously – but even that just makes it more unique.
The music and sound effects are also well done, really setting up the magical atmosphere. This is one casual game that won't have you lowering the volume after several hours of gameplay.
Another nice addition is the in-game recipes. As you unlock new food items in Miriel's shop, you also unlock actual recipes you can make at home, directly connected to those you make in the game. All are simple and original, made using basic ingredients and easy directions.
As for the quality of these recipes, well...you'll have to try them out an let us know. They seems pretty decent to me just by reading them, although I do wonder if they are really as simple to make as they sound. Some examples include Farmer's Cheese, Strawberry Jam, Quick Mud Cake, Mocca Chocolate Truffles, Lemon Cake, and Miriel's Bread (made with nuts and dates).
As mentioned before, the interactive storyline is a cool touch, which adds to the replay value of the game. It's fun to play the game over and see how different choices affect the outcome. And, having to cook and combine ingredients, despite making the game more challenging, also makes the pace much more hectic and fun to play.
On the downside, it can be difficult to recall which ingredients must be mixed together in order to create the right dish. I often got confused, and tried to make chocolate cake by blending cake with milk chocolate, when it should be made by blending the cake with cocoa beans.
It can also get frustrating when you have complicated dishes to prepare, but the customers have little patience to wait for them! Still, the haste device power-up goes a long way to smoothing that frustration, and you can always look in the menu to refresh your memory if you forget certain recipes.
If you're looking for a well-designed time management game that offers just the right degree of hectic challenge, along with some lesser-used game play elements like item combining, Miriel the Magical Merchant is a game you will want to check out. Fans of games like Cooking Dash and Mystic Inn will find many similar enjoyable elements. If you also happen to like cooking, the quirky recipes might just inspire you.
- Clever use of item combinations and "cooking." Curious interactive storyline with multiple endings. Good replay value. Interesting recipe ideas that you can make at home.
- Some memorization of ingredient combinations is required, and can be challenging at advanced levels.