When I was a child, I once told my mother that I wanted to work at a gas station when I grew up. I don't know why this was my aspiration at the time, and I don't remember my mother's response, but I never did live up to that goal. I went on to do other things: I went to college, worked a few different retail and customer service jobs, and started writing for a website called Nintendo Life. During all of this, I always knew that I was really just waiting for the opportunity to fulfil my childhood fantasy, and that time has finally come thanks to a 3DS eShop release titled Conveni Dream.
If you haven't gathered, Conveni Dream is a simulation game that puts you in the position of owning and operating your very own convenience store. It's not a new concept, but it's one that works when done right, and Conveni Dream has just enough to throw at its players to keep the experience – and produce – feeling fresh.
Though the premise revolves around stocking and maintaining a convenience store, Conveni Dream shares less in common with Toybox's store sim Hometown Story than one might assume. Instead, this game shares more with perennial PC classic Diner Dash, combining elements of time management and fast-paced clicking to ensure that you're running the most lucrative convenience store that you possibly can.
At the game's opening you find yourself greeted by Eri, the store's rather informative supervisor. Through a series of poorly translated tutorials, Eri explains the basics of running a store and managing your funds so you don't run your new business right into the ground. All in all, it's a lot of tapping around on the 3DS's touchscreen and reading menus to determine what will sell and what your customer base looks like. It may seem like a lot to grasp at first, but it quickly becomes clear that Conveni Dream does just enough handholding to make its players feel comfortable in making decisions without floundering.
The visuals, while not overly impressive, work well enough to get the job done. Your store is presented in a top-down view, almost as if you took the roof off of the building while you hover overhead. This makes it easy to see exactly what is happening, but it also means that everything is two-dimensional, not making any use of the console's 3D display and definitely not pushing the processing power. Everything is designed in a cute style, but a lot of the displays and inventory do look similar to each other, so it can be difficult to identify exactly what you have on the shelves. That said, the lack of stress on the system means that we never experienced any lag, even when our store was flooded with customers.
As you progress through the game by selling goods, purchasing displays, hiring more employees and gradually expanding your store, the stakes grow higher, but things never seem to become more difficult. The information is always readily available to predict what products are going to sell well to help dictate your inventory, and while your store gets busier it never feels overwhelming. Veterans of the management genre might feel held back by the fact that little to no real skill is necessary, but this definitely sets itself up as a strong starting point for newcomers to the genre.
Beyond simply expanding your business and income, there are challenges to complete to keep up the pace. As there is no real plot to look forward to developing, it's nice to have additional goals peppered along your path to keep things interesting. Challenges vary from selling a certain amount of inventory or tapping on grumpy customers to cheer them up, but they all contribute towards to the larger goal of maintaining your store. The challenges provide a little variety in the gameplay, but this is also where the whole system starts to fall apart.
If the goal behind Conveni Dream is to get your store up and running, then it's not a particularly difficult objective to reach. After just a few in-game weeks of tapping around the shop floor and maintaining it as best we could, we eventually had the income to hire enough employees that the whole thing became almost completely self-sufficient. There is always room for expansion and reorganization to truly optimize your store, but the core goal of gameplay can be achieved after a few short hours. There are incentives to keep growing, including an in-game achievement system, but once the store was running on its own, gameplay quickly grew stale.
While Conveni Dream did help to fulfil a life-long fantasy of working at a gas station, the overall experience left us wanting more. As far as time management simulators go, this one might be a solid point of entry for younger players or those unfamiliar with the type, but it doesn't contain the depth that those familiar with the genre will be seeking. It's not a particularly deep or visually stunning game, but it does well with what it offers. Unfortunately, what's offered here amounts to little more than day-old hotdogs spinning on a roller grill.