Developed By: MassHive Media
Published By: PQube
Category: Adventure, Crafting, Puzzle, Action-RPG
Release Date: 09.22.22
It comes as no surprise to anyone following gaming that the small town life/crafting sim has experienced a renaissance since Stardew Valley‘s release. Numerous developers have thrown their hats in that particular ring, to mixed results for some. MassHive Media is the latest to give the archetype a go with their latest release Potion Permit. It gets a ton right in terms of character building, atmosphere, and original gameplay ideas. Unfortunately, some gameplay elements get old faster than others. Overall, though, it’s definitely a game that will thoroughly satisfy fans of its genre.
Take the Train to Beautiful Moonbury
Potion Permit is the tale of a freshly minted chemist who is assigned to serve the town of Moonbury. The community has a distrust of chemists after the last one screwed up the island’s environment, possibly driving some local plants extinct. The mayor, however, has a sick daughter and the local witch doctor isn’t exactly meeting with success in her treatment. This is where the chemist comes in; if they save Rue, they can stay and start rebuilding their profession’s reputation. Luckily that takes like a day since she can be cured with the easiest potion to make. Then we can get on with the actual game pretty quick.
The overall story in Potion Permit is rather small in scale, which is typical for the genre. It’s not about a grand adventure or fighting an ancient evil, it’s about building a community. The chemist builds bonds with each of Moonbury’s citizens by talking to them daily, healing them when they’re sick, and helping them with their problems. The dialogue may be a tad sparse, but it’s effective and to the point. The town’s many inhabitants are fleshed out well enough to make their problems relatable and compelling. Overall, the story unfolding is an engrossing one about a supportive community welcoming a new member into its ranks.
Wander the Woods, Gather the Goods
In addition to its great narrative, Potion Permit’s gameplay features a robust resource gathering and crafting system. Resources are gathered through a combination of hunting, harvesting, and purchasing. Purchasing is pretty self-explanatory; you know how stores work, right? Hunting and harvesting are pretty similar – you swing one of your three tools (a scythe, hammer, and axe) at your targets. The main difference between the two is that hunted animals tend to fight back. Harvested trees, rocks, and flowers don’t put up much of a fight, really.
Combat is pretty simple but competent; you can swing your weapon and dodge, and that’s basically it. Some nuance is added as the game goes along, such as enemies with shells that must be broken with hammers before any real damage can be done, but deep combat will never be one of the game’s main selling points. Your tools can be upgraded at the town blacksmith to do more damage in both hunting and harvesting, which helps to conserve your stamina bar. If it gets low, you can eat food to replenish it, along with your health. So, yeah – this part’s all pretty standard. It’s not bad, really – just lacking depth or strategy.
Your chemist practice in Moonbury consists of two buildings – the potion house and the clinic. When the townsfolk get sick, you get an alarm in the morning that lets you know you have a patient. First, you have to diagnose the patient by talking to them in the clinic. Diagnosing a patient is a simple matter of completing a mini game without making any mistakes – or making as few as possible to keep patient satisfaction high. Once you’ve identified the malady, off you go the potion house to brew up the cure.
Crafting potions is the most unique part of the game. Each component has a particular shape, and the components must be arranged to fit the shape of the potion you intend to brew. It adds a neat puzzle aspect to the game. The potions get more elaborate the farther you advance, which is pretty cool – for a while. Continuously filling out the same pattern with different components can feel a little repetitive. You can save your formulas after you’ve brewed a potion five times, but that requires you to have the same components every time. This requires going back to earlier foraging areas or updating the saved formula with different reagents. Either way, it’s tough to totally curb the repetitive nature of potion crafting, but it’s hardly on onerous task so it’s not that big a deal unless you’re impatient to advance the story.
Don’t Forget to Stop and Enjoy the View
Pixel art, as I have stated multiple times in this site, is near and dear to my heart. Potion Permit’s pixelized visuals harken back to the early days of PSX JRPGs, one of my favorite eras of gaming and genre. However, the game looks fantastic even if you aren’t overcome by aesthetic nostalgia. The setting is colorful, detailed, and inviting and the characters are lively and imbued with friendly personalities. The graphics match the tone of the narrative perfectly, as does the soundtrack. While there are only a few songs in the game, their pleasant, breezy tones are wonderfully welcoming and mellow. I never got tired of listening to the tunes as I explored Moonbury and its surroundings.
Permit Yourself to Pick Up This Game
Maybe the crafting/town life sim genre isn’t for everyone, but for everyone who loves it, Potion Permit has everything they could want. It has great characters to meet and bond with, and gameplay that mostly enables those bonds to grow and evolve at a consistent and satisfying pace. The gathering and combat mechanics are smooth and solid, if unspectacular. The crafting components of the game have an original mechanic that isn’t totally devoid of tedium, but it beats just navigating a bland menu all the time. If a cheerful, personal narrative accompanied by sound gameplay design is your cup of tea, put Potion Permit on your play list.
Buy Potion Permit
Digital – $19.99
Follow MassHive Media
The Switch Effect was supplied a game code for review purposes.