From time to time, my gaming habit tends to change somewhat. Instead of tirelessly dodging blows from a boss in a Souls-like or wiping the floor with my enemies in a strategy game, I might decide to relax a little. That’s when I came across Potion Permit. This new game from MassHive Media and PQube promises a cozy and fun-filled experience as you attempt to cure villagers and help the town grow. However, it’s also bogged down by tedious mechanics and poor pacing.
Potion Permit starts off when your character, a chemist from the capital, arrives at the town of Moonbury. Since this is a secluded location, most of the residents are distrustful of you. Things begin to get better once you cure the mayor’s daughter, as everyone sees your eagerness to aid them in their time of need.
Sticks, stones, and shrubs
The gameplay loop of Potion Permit involves gathering materials from nearby areas (i.e., different kinds of wood, stone, and herbs). You’re given an axe, mallet, and sickle to chop, smash, and slash these objects. There are also a few enemies around, though combat is definitely not the title’s strongest suit (some creatures even get stuck while you’re fighting them).
Once your stamina has been fully drained, you’ve got no choice but to use a consumable, rest for the day, or spend a few hours in the bathhouse. Assuming a day has passed, you can return to these areas and farm the respawned nodes once more. It’s not a particularly challenging affair (you won’t need to worry about survival mechanics such as hunger or thirst).
What’s up, doc?
The ingredients you’ve gathered can be used to brew potions. Think of each item as akin to a Tetris block that needs to be placed on the board. Once you’ve filled this completely, that’s when the concoction is crafted.
The mechanic is fairly simple, which left me wanting more. Likewise, unless I completely missed it, the inventory panel doesn’t tell you how many materials you have. This information can only be checked via the cauldron, which made me wonder how many of each stuff I need for their block patterns.
Since you’re the town’s new chemist, you’re expected to help citizens recover in case they’re sick or injured. An icon on the top-right corner of your HUD notifies you if a villager needs immediate attention in the clinic.
There, you’ll diagnose their ailments, leading to a mini-game where you either memorize the arrow keys that are highlighted in sequence or tap them accordingly akin to a rhythm game. Next, you’ll brew or use a potion, and they’re finally cured. Should you fail in your endeavors, the NPCs would be moved to better facilities outside the village.
Here we go ’round the Moonbury bush
The village of Moonbury has around 30 residents you can meet. Once a day, you can gain a relationship boost by talking to them or giving gifts. Upon reaching a threshold, your friendship level with that NPC increases and you’ll be able to undertake a short sidequest. Some characters are also romanceable if you’re up for it.
There’s a bit of a disconnect here, as relationship boosts are only obtained via those aforementioned means. Technically, you’re aiding someone who’s fallen ill, but they’d hardly count you as a friend. Moreover, some of these sidequests simply involve gathering more materials, brewing additional potions, or fetching random quest items. You’re not necessarily doing an activity that’s distinct from your usual routine. In relation to this, you might need to reintroduce yourself to the locals, as though they don’t remember you from a previous cutscene or interaction.
Still, as you continue to keep people healthy, the town will also grow, unlocking new furnishings and features. Likewise, you’ll have a few mini-games that you can try out (i.e., button-mashing to churn grapes or Whac-A-Mole in the arcade room).
Poor pacing and progression
Perhaps one of the biggest flaws in Potion Permit is that the game is poorly paced. You could spend a couple of minutes doing nothing or going back and forth through areas for no reason. This is also compounded by the in-game clock, where 10 minutes pass for every 10 seconds in real time, and the fact that some buildings and establishments are only open during specific hours or days.
For example, here’s what my usual daily routine looked like a bit later in the game:
- Wake up at 6 AM.
- Fast travel to any of the small wilderness areas to gather items.
- Fast travel back to the village around 8 AM, which is when some establishments start to open. Any period before this might mean that the locals are still asleep.
- Talk to a few NPCs to gain boosts. You’ll have to do this for multiple citizens if you want to increase friendship levels or unlock sidequests.
- Return to the wilderness to farm more mats until my stamina runs out.
- Sleep, wake up, and repeat the whole thing.
The only activity that breaks this routine is when someone is ill (you’ll be able to visit the clinic at any hour).
Lacking some ingredients
Questionable progression in Potion Permit was one factor I did not expect. Early on, I was asked to clear a landslide so I can reach the next small zone. Little did I know that I’d need over a hundred wood and stone pieces, and most objects only yielded a handful of those once destroyed. That meant redoing these actions for a several days until I had all the materials. I thought that was an odd requirement considering that I had just started the campaign. I was eager to explore, but I was confined to one tiny section with the same mobs, plants, and items.
There were instances when I neglected boosting relationships with villagers, too. And, as it just so happened, the next main quest required increasing friendship levels with three citizens. That’s when the aforementioned daily routine became part of the norm. Instead of having free-form fun in a sandbox life sim, I felt that I was simply checking off tasks on a list. That continued for more hours, turning what should’ve been a casual and relaxing experience into a plodding and monotonous grind.
Still, Potion Permit does have some interesting quirks, and its cutesy, cartoony graphics definitely lend a unique charm. It’s a game I see myself playing only in short bursts. Sadly, it doesn’t have the right ingredients (pun intended) for longer play sessions.