Potion Permit, developed my MassHive Media and published by pQube, is a chill pixel art life management sim with great ideas begging for some polish. Runs great on Linux with Proton.
Before we continue. If you are thinking about buying this game, I recommend you to pause your reading and install the available demo. While I will cover the game design and my experiences in this review, nothing will beat your own experiences. So, I encourage you to try demos when available. Nonetheless, I am thankful for you being here, so let’s go to the game.
You play as a “chemist”, a mix of doctor, researcher and gatherer, sent to the village of Moonbury, by the Medical association to help heal the Mayor’s daughter. The thing is, all the villagers distrust chemists because of something that happened a while ago. If you feel like it, you can work to regain this lost trust and maybe discovery more about the past. And I mean it, the game is chill, and you do as you please, befriend and help people around the town, go fishing, go exploring, enjoy a bath or many other activities. The only sense of urgency I had during my gameplay was when I received someone ill in my clinic.
|Description (spoiler free)
|Somewhat open-ended, but you can:
When people arrive at your clinic, you have a number of days to heal them, that is the main game loop. To complete it, you need to fulfill 3 minor loops:
Diagnose: look for the area they are complaining about, and complete the associated mini-game to figure out what is the ailment and the potion needed for healing.
Gatherer: Roam around the surroundings of the village to get the ingredients necessary to brew potions, using your set of tools. Harvest flowers, chop down trees, mine stones and fight the fauna. The raw materials can be one of four elements: wind, earth, fire and water. And are represented with a basic shape similar to the game Tetris pieces. You can also buy ingredients, but they will cost you way more than what you make per potion. From what I played, there was no way to sell raw materials, only potions.
Brew: You craft the healing potion on your cauldron. And I think here lies the brilliance of it. Each potion type has a blueprint that defines a complex shape and allowed elements, you need to build that using the Tetris pieces of multiples ingredients of allowed elements. So, when you are late in the game, you don’t need to go back to the first area just to get a single sweet flower. Someone requested sugar, and I am pretty sure I used bear pelt and bug parts to make it, wait, maybe it was slime and tree sap. But be careful, as your cauldron supports only a limited number of items at a time, so you need to be creative with the parts assembling. No worries, you can upgrade it later to allow more ingredients per potion.
But that didn’t save the game of one of my fears, the grind, to upgrade your equipment and progress in the game you will need plenty of resources, and that requirement multiply the further you go. The inflation is not as bad as other games of the genre, but it was enough to remind me of the Brazil in the 90s. I had to deforest the area several days in a row with a rusty tool just to have enough sticks to clean a landslide, the next area needs almost 3 times more work. Grind in a game is a way to artificially increase play time, and it took my attention away from the core that made me like this game. I just wish games cared less for time played and focused more on meaningful experiences…
Sorry, I needed that rant. Just to finish this fear’s part, as games from this genre goes, it has many mini-games around the city to help you out with resources, like fishing, or just for fun like an arcade, I am just glad that they didn’t add a farm to micromanage, where I needed assembly lines, like factory simulators that put you inches close to the industrial revolution.
Now, the star of the show, the Dog! First thing I tried to do was to pet the Dog, and I was disappointed for a moment… in this game, before you interact with the Dog you need to whistle first. Then you can pet, feed, dig or if you are bad at keeping track of people’s routine like me, it is where your dogs shines, to track the person you have to talk or deliver a life-saving concoction.
The game also need some polishing, it is full of minor non-game breaking bugs sometimes funny, like a bedridden character appearing in cutscenes, someone you saw in one side of the town invited you to their house, but they are there as well, a quest item you need to brew stayed in the list after the quest was finished, and the odd fast travel flags in the city being deactivated every time I close the game. And my review would have stayed like that if I haven’t enjoyed the game so much and pushed it further and further. Later I unlocked the fast travel flag in one area, when I fast travel there, everything but the floor and my character would disappear. Finding the next flag and teleporting there got the fauna, flora and minerals back.
It has a lot of potential, but it needs some polishing and economy balancing as I would love to see more focus on what makes this game unique, you being a “chemist”.
Problems aside, the game has a nice flow to it, as you alternate through the different loops it is quite hard to get bored as the mechanics are different, tired of adventuring while gathering, solve some puzzles making potions, or develop your relationship with the townsfolk. All on your own time, you decide, it lets you take things on your own pace while surrounded with wholesomeness. I confess, this game did wonders for my mental health, and I hope to see some more cozy elements in future games.
|Runs great on Linux
|Could have had more accessibility features like colourblind mode
|You can remap the keyboard
|No controller remap (you can do it through steam)
If you feel like exploring some creative chill life management sim as a chemist, Potion Permit is planned to release on September 22 on Steam.