Potion Permit doesn’t seem to do anything in a rush, and that’s because it’s a game that expects you to be with it for a long time. It’s a life simulation, really, disguised as a potion-making game. You’re a chemist sent to a town to brew potions, but here’s a house to decorate and machinery to renovate, and here are some townspeople whose friendships you’ll need to earn before they – and the services they provide – fail. open. Oh, and they have daily rhythms that you’ll have to adapt to and work around. Try to catch someone out of hours and they won’t want to know: you’ll have to wait until morning when they’re officially back on duty. Everything takes time.
The game plays out very similarly mechanically, slowly introducing new ideas. After a few hours of play, I’ve only seen a few of what I suspect are many gameplay ideas overall, and most of them are minigames. But the core idea is resource gathering and crafting.
When out in the wild, Potion Permit feels like an old-school action RPG, in that you smash enemies with the press of a button, then roll to dodge their attacks. You don’t have to kill enemies – combat doesn’t seem to be the point of the game – but you will be attacked and enemies will drop useful ingredients, so why not?
The other ingredients you need you harvest, equipping the appropriate tool – scythe, ax, or hammer – then smashing them into whatever node you need to destroy: plant, tree, or stone.
But crafting works slightly differently. When you finally unlock your cauldron, you’ll find a Tetris-like puzzle game that governs potion making. It allows you to use a variety of ingredients which, as long as they all fit in a larger form and fill it completely, will produce a potion. It’s a nice approach. And there’s a whole workshop of broken down machines to fix that probably all have their own mini-games.
The only other minigame I’ve seen is a rhythm action game set in, surprisingly, the hospital area of the game. I matched buttons to diagnose a patient’s problem, just like you do. But there was no music with it, which is odd for rhythm action, and the implementation felt basic. Nevertheless, it held my attention for a few minutes.
That’s how Potion Permit seems to be going, then: slowly. Because it assumes you’re here for the long haul, it takes time to introduce things to you. You don’t mind hustling back and forth a bit to harvest the ingredients, or getting involved in lots of interrupted staging vignettes that root you to the spot, or having to earn the mechanical variety it des offers.
But complaining about it seems a bit out of place, because a lot of the charm of Potion Permit is just being in it – in its world, in its company. It’s the digital equivalent of a cup of hot chocolate: all the warm hugs and sugary good cheer. It’s an idyllic town straight out of a pixelated picture book, as shabby as a set of toys, and always bathed in sunshine or dappled with moonlight or shimmering in the warm glow of candlelight. Things are good here, things are quiet, so why not stay a while and rest? No rush.
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