Bookstore Dream, to be clear, has about as much book-selling realism as the Call of Duty series has to real warfare. Ultimately though, it is just a game, and this one draws much of its inspiration from a series of smartphone resource management games from developer Kairosoft. We won't complain about that, however, as it does a good job of recreating the addictive, compulsive nature of those games, even if it does have the odd quirk to frustrate eager booksellers.
The basic premise of Bookstore Dream couldn't be simpler: you start with a small shop, a couple of humble shelves and just a few different books to sell. Your objective is to invest capital wisely in a number of areas, such as promotions, stock, publisher contracts and store upgrades, with the theory that those investments pay off. It quickly becomes a balancing act, judging how much to spend, how careful to be with your reserves and ensuring that the projected expenditure, taken at the end of the week, is less than the money you have in the bank.
There's an awful lot to look after and think about, which is good, but the title's manual and information is woefully lacking. The manual itself explains what you should be doing, in terms of running your store, but gives you little indication of how to do it. With no interactive tutorial at the start, we actually resorted to simply trying every menu and figuring it out ourselves, which we were able to do so after a short while. That said, we know of someone who played the game for a good amount of time without understanding that they could move and replace furnishings or buy specific racks for different items.
Still, once you know what you're doing this quickly evolves into a compulsive and addictive experience. Before long you get into a rhythm of restocking books, CDs and magazines, running pricing promotions and organising money-spinning book signings. The store and its contents rapidly evolve, if you're playing the game well, to the point where over 50 products grace ever-expanding shelves, and the task of prioritising certain items becomes increasingly important. Good financial records and sales bring investment and improved publisher relations, and each reward inevitably pushes you on.
Much like its smartphone inspirations, you're given objectives to achieve within a set period of time. The objective is to earn publisher agreements and a capital of $5,000,000, and it's more than likely that you won't achieve this at the first time of asking. The idea is that you learn from your mistakes and try again, and there's every possibility that you will, as we completed a play-through in nine hours over six sessions, providing an indication of how addictive this one can be. In that context, it's exceptional value at 200 DSiWare points.
There are a couple of technical flaws to point out, however, that undermine the experience a little. In one case, we encountered a problem with stock orders: placing orders up to a certain number for next day delivery worked well, but ordering more for two day delivery meant the order didn't arrive. We stuck with daily orders as a result, and there is a convenient option for automated re-stocking, as well. There's also an issue that you're unable to make any mass price changes — a potential workaround was a red herring — leading to the tedious process of changing over 50 products one at a time.
There are also other little quirks, such as book signings that were clearly a roaring success for the tills being declared otherwise by the game, and there is only one save file available at a time; these issues can be worked around or ignored, generally. The visuals are cute, meanwhile, but we strongly suggest listening to some music and turning the handheld's volume down, as the game's sound can grate after a while.
Bookstore Dream succeeds in many ways, as it is engrossing, addictive and entertaining for a good amount of time; a steal at 200 points. That said, there are a few bugs and annoyances to work around, and the information in the manual is sorely lacking, telling you what to do but not how to do it. Despite these problems, the overall experience is enjoyable, and if you're not careful many hours will be lost in running your humble little book shop.