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Minami Lane review — the cutest city builder around

Minami Lane screenshot
Image: Doot/Bliploop

Calling Minami Lane a “city builder” is something of an over-exaggeration. A street builder, perhaps? But even that feels a little grandiose. This wonderfully cute and cosy little sim isn’t concerned with all the technicalities you’d expect to find in a city builder. Whether your residents have water and electricity? That’s none of your concern. Instead, ensuring the recipe at their local ramen shop is to their tastes is way more important.

This is a very small game made by a very small team. Just three people, in fact. For something so cute and well-put together, that’s a serious feat and it makes us love Minami Lane even more. This five-mission campaign cane be completed in about three hours, but it’s three relaxing, chilled hours of keeping your citizens happy and growing your street. Perhaps best played in short bursts, it’s a great way to unwind.

Before every day in Minami Lane, you have the opportunity to place a new building on your street. It could be a new residence, bringing new people to the neighbourhood, or it could be a shop. Each mission has a different selection of stores available. To begin with, for example, you can only build ramen stands and boba tea shops. Once you’ve placed your new shop, you can play through the day, with an opportunity to pick up extra cash by collecting rubbish, finding a hidden object and petting cats.

Minami Lane
Image: Doot/Blibloop

What’s most important to do during the day, though, is click on your residents. Their thoughts will tell you what they think of the recipes in your shop: perhaps they think the ramen has too much pork, or not enough eggs. By adjusting the recipe before the next day begins, you’ll (hopefully) increase satisfaction. And having happy residents is the ultimate goal here.

Related: The best cosy Games on PS4 and PS5

Each new mission of Minami Lane brings new challenges. The further you get, the more new elements are added in. You’ll eventually be able to upgrade your buildings, for example. Maybe you can make a residential building larger, housing more neighbours. Or maybe you can beautify your boba tea shop, enhancing your street’s beauty score. The prettier a street is, the happier your residents are!

Each mission gives you a number of goals to achieve – like have X residents, and have above a 75% satisfaction rating. These get a little more in-depth in later missions too, but there’s nothing particularly difficult here. There’s a very simple and satisfying gameplay loop of making money, then spending that money on making your residents happy.

Minami Lane
Image: Doot/Blibloop

Once you’ve completed Minami Lane’s campaign, all is not lost: there’s a sandbox mode to play to your heart’s content. You can play with unlimited resources, simply building the prettiest, best street you can dream up. Or there’s a strategic mode, giving you limited resources to begin with and providing a challenge to grow over time. We doubt sandbox mode will keep you coming back for weeks, but it’s the sort of thing we can imagine dipping into now and then when we want to unwind.

We absolutely love the art style of Minami Lane: it’s bright, bold and cutesy, brought to life with a watercolour palette and adorable chibi-style residents. It makes spending time on your street a joy, and it’s further enhanced by the sound design. A little meow plays out when a new cat walks onto the street, for example, or a bicycle bell as a cyclist rides down the road. Interacting with these will earn you bonus coins, so it’s worth keeping an ear out.

It’s true there’s not much to Minami Lane, but this is a fine example of wholesome gaming: simple, engaging and wonderfully relaxing. The fact it’s been made by such a small team makes it all the better. Don’t come here expecting an in-depth city building experience, but if a few hours of cosiness appeals, we’re pretty sure you’ll have a fine old time.

Minami Lane review – GameSpew’s score

This review of Minami Lane has been facilitated by a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PC.
Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.