It's #loveindies time, which means that TechRaptor is going all in on indie game coverage! That means previews, reviews and a bunch of new Coverage Club entries from our review team all week. Keep checking the site for a slew of articles talking about smaller releases that need more attention.
Winkeltje is a game that I've had a rather difficult time spelling. It's also an entertaining shopkeep simulator, something that's become a bit of a craze in recent years. With classics like Recettear and more recent developments like Shoppe Keep and Moonlighter, Winkeltje is competing in a space that's niche — but it also has some very strong contenders.
The concept behind Winkeltje is relatively straightforward: you're put in charge of a shop. You get a bit of starting money and a tutorial that introduces you to the mechanics. It even has a very nice failsafe that will loan you money once should you fail to pay off your debt for the first week (but only the first week). Players have to buy tables, stalls, and the like to put items on, buy stock for the shop, and then sell it. Hopefully, you'll turn a profit, stay in business, and expand your shop.
One of the things I most readily appreciated about this game is how it does things differently. To start, many games of this style have a grid-based system. Winkeltje does as well, but you can eschew it entirely and pretty much put your selling tables and crafting stations wherever you like. A surprising amount of creativity is available to the player (although my predisposition to min-maxing got the better of me and I had a very bare bones store).
A single day in Winkeltje goes pretty quickly. There's a minimum amount of downtime.
There are also a number of fail-safes in place to keep you from making mistakes that you might make in other games of a similar style. Expanding your shop has to be planned out and then confirmed. You can hold off on getting more floor space if you don't have the money. The ability to plan out your shop before buying the expansion also allows you to get an estimate of what it will cost in the future.
Many of your most important components can be sold at the same cost you bought them. Some may dislike this system if they're used to traditional RPGs where you get 50% or less when selling an item, but I liked it. Much like Rebel Galaxy's upgrade system, this encourages and allows the player to be flexible in changing up their shop to meet the needs of the day.
Strangely, one of the things you don't tinker with in Winkeltje is the prices of things. A hammer sells for whatever a hammer sells for. Stock moves in and out so quickly that you won't have time to muck about with price tags anyway. What you can do is get things cheaper by buying them from traveling merchants. Even better, you can craft items yourself.
The first few days of my save file were spent crafting clothes and creating a veritable fashion empire. Eventually, I was selling shirts, pants, dresses, and two kinds of shoes and making a tidy profit every day, largely because I made the items myself rather than buying them from the wholesaler. My operations eventually expanded to blacksmithing, allowing me to sell hammers and eventually shovels.
The pace of Winkeltje is probably one of the most appealing things to me. I spent a total of four hours with the game, but I honestly lost track of time at the beginning. I thought to check my time and noticed that more than an hour had passed without me realizing it. That's a solid sign that the devs have created a compelling game here.
The minimal downtime also staves off boredom. The shop opens, customers purchase stuff, the shop closes. After that, I just had to craft or buy new items to restock the shelves and repeat. It's the perfect sort of game for playing ten or twenty minutes at a time, but it could just as easily fill a marathon gaming session if you really wanted to sit down and make some progress.
Speaking of stock, there's already a pretty robust amount of items available. I found myself constantly struggling for shelf space, eventually settling on cabinets with six slots apiece. The game's restock feature makes it easy to manage what's on shelves. You can replace purchased items simply by pressing R (as long as I have them in my inventory). Every few days, a new item would become available and I'd slightly panic about figuring out where to cram in more shelves or how I ought to rearrange my shop.
The freedom to arrange my shop was one of the most challenging bits. I had a bunch of puzzle pieces available to me — had I set things up in the most efficient way? I have to consider the pathfinding of customers and my own ability to move around, but maybe I could have crammed in another two or three tables or shelves or something.
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Your shop will gradually increase in size to meet the demands of your customers.
Then again, Winkeltje is such a chill game that I didn't mind all that much. I played on normal difficulty and faced a healthy (but not overbearing) challenge. If you're out for something more intense, a harder difficulty is available. (Easier difficulties are also available for those of you who are inexperienced with the genre.) Normal difficulty feels excellently balanced and delivered exactly the sort of thing that I expected to see from this kind of game.
That's not to say that there weren't some downsides. The camera can make walls disappear so you can actually see things. However, there's not yet an option to just have the walls permanently lowered like in The Sims. There's also no real accounts ledger or anything similar as far as I can tell. Because of this, it's difficult to say what my long-term profits are. These are features that I hope to see added in a future version of this Early Access game.
Winkeltje perfectly distills the shop keeper experience down into a simple but challenging experience. Most importantly, I found it incredibly enjoyable.
If you enjoy games of this sort (or you're simply curious about them), I think that Winkeltje is something you should consider picking up. It's a great value prospect at its current state of development. Especially with a team of developers who listen to the community and constantly push out new features. It's well worth a look.
TechRaptor covered Winkeltje on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.