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The Games Of Christmas '10: Day 10

RPS is strictly a for-profit venture. There is no creativity here. No integrity. No love. We're only here for the filthy lucre. There is no more beautiful word in the English language than 'monetise.' By way of proof, please pay your 48.7 micro-groat tithe to ACCESS THE TENTH WINDOW.

Capitalism, ho! It's... Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale!

Quinns: True story- I used to work in Clarks, the shoe shop chain. I did not enjoy working in Clarks. In fact, working in Clarks produced the worst four months of my life. I was so bad at forcing goods on people that within a week I’d been banished to the role of “stock room manager”, which was actually okay. Organising shoeboxes day after day was like playing a very slow-burn block-based puzzle game, and since the branch I worked in was about as tidy as a bomb crater I had plenty to be getting on with. Like Quasimodo, I’d found my place. But every so often enough customers would swarm the shop that I’d be summoned, and would emerge blinking and twitching from my refuge.

On one of these occasions I was called down to help an obese woman. She started asking me about boots very, very rudely, and later she caught me staring in fascination at her immense gut. Finally she picked out a style and sent me up the stairs to fetch a size 7. Down I came, carrying a box that felt far too light. Wasn’t it odd, that the box felt so light? It was. But I wasn’t thinking.

What happened next was that I proudly opened a box in her direction that had no boots inside it. No shoes at all. What it did have in it, though, was a Ginster’s Cornish Pasty wrapper. To this day I have no idea what in the shit it was doing in there. The woman and I looked at the wrapper, then at each other, then back at the wrapper as if maybe the wrapper was about to apologise and explain everything, and then as I was half way to formulating some firecracker of an excuse she demanded to see my monster manager. Later that week my manager told me she’d been receiving complaints about my personal hygiene to get me to try and quit. She succeeded. Oh, that was a job.

I hate retail and will never work it again. It is the worst thing. As such, I can’t help but see Recettear as kind of a failure. I mean, a game where you run a shop and have incredible fun for the whole time? What’s that about?

But it’s true. In the hands of Recettear, capitalism is transformed in a numerical rollercoaster. I suppose I’ll just talk about the barter system, because it’s the core of Recettear and easily in my top 5 game mechanics of the year.

If you haven’t played Recettear, here’s how bartering works- a customer approaches you with an item from your shelves they want to buy, or a request for something you may or may not have in the back, or maybe they have something they want to sell you. It’s then up to you to offer a price. You get two shots at this. If a customer dislikes your first offer, they’ll grumble out a bit of text that hints at exactly how much they disagree. If they dislike your second offer, they’ll storm out, losing you the sale.

What this represents is a hard nubbin of risk-reward. You only get a handful of these offers each day, so they all matter, and the item’s actual value is always right there on screen. Generally speaking you can sell things for 130% of that value and buy them for 70% of it.

But you always have that first offer- your free shot, just to see if they’ll bite. So you try and sell for 135%, even 140%. But when they turn that down the doubt sets in because this is it- your last chance. What if they won’t buy for 130%? What if they want lower? Every character in the game has different amounts of cash and a different personality, and learning- basically- who’s poor, who’s rich and who’s a shrewd bargainer occupies you utterly. Or maybe they don’t have different personalities at all, maybe that’s something I invented off the back of some random occurances. Which is exactly the kind of game Recettear is- it makes sure you know its rules, just not all of the rules, and lets you flounder and hypothesise inside that little bit of mystery. That’s a lot of fun.

But it’s all a lot of fun. Getting combos of sales, worrying about having stock and filling orders, going to get new stock and meeting new characters. It’s all fun. It’s all lovely. There is no small talk, no running around after idiots and no cornish pasty wrappers sequestered in boxes. There’s just risk, reward, and the godlike chiming of your cash register. Capitalism, ho!

Alec: I'm going to tell a true story too, but I'm not going to talk about the nuts and bolts of what makes Recettear itself great as such. I've done that plenty already. Haven't played it? You should. Even if it turns out you don't like it, you should at least be able to say you played it.

In mid-July, 2010, an email plops into the RPS collective inbox. Being one of a good few hundred mails that turn up that week, it inevitably sits ignored for a little while. Because we had no idea. We never have any idea. It's always a wonderful feeling when one of those emails turns out to be something incredible. Someone's taken the time to introduce us to a little wonder, and in turn we get the great pleasure of introducing it to someone else.

I took a look eventually. One of us always takes a look eventually. We know what a goldmine of global imagination that inbox can contain, and we're phenomenally grateful for it. In this case it happened to be me that nosed at that quiet little email, but the site's archives (and indeed this Advent Calendar) are filled with each of us suddenly exploding into gibbering enthusiasm about something we'd never heard of before that moment.

At any time, any one of the unread emails in that inbox could be something we still writing thousands of words about six months later. Could be something that ends up shifting hundreds of thousands of copies, without any even a whiff of publishing or marketing support. Could become a name familiar to the vast majority of enthusiastic PC gamers have heard of.

Recettear's as fine an example I can think of why the PC is unassailably the most interesting gaming platform, and why I love working for RPS.

We never have any idea. Any one of scores of emails that quietly arrive, unannounced, in our inbox (and many others' inboxes too, but far too many places still simply ignore anything that doesn't originate from a well-established published), could be a Recettear, a You Have To Burn The Rope, a VVVVVV, a (Super) Meat Boy, a World of Goo, a Neptune's Pride... It's always like that, and we have never, ever have any idea.

It could only happen on PC. There's no one saying 'no' to these games - no one to stop those emails being sent. No one to say "a three-year-old translated Japanese RPG about shopkeeping? Nah, that won't sell. Kill it."

The PC in 2010 is defined by a whole bunch of people saying "yeah, why not?" In turn, it's defined by the unexpected. Recettear - elaborate, clever, witty, rewarding thing that it is - is perfect, joyous proof of that.

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Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

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The all-seeing eye of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the voice of many-as-one.