I only played one demo during Steam NextFest, but it was a delightful experience. Potion Permit is an extremely charming and likable experience, with a surprising amount of variety, and a very satisfying gameplay loop.
The story isn’t wholly original but one I still enjoyed. My main character, who I named Possum (of course) is a chemist from the Capital. They travel to Moonbury at the request of the mayor to cure his sick daughter. Instead of being welcomed into a new town as these games typically do, a hostile town greeted Possum. Turns out the last chemist left a less than favorable impression. If it was up to the town, Moonbury would never see another chemist again. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. Every other method to cure the Mayor’s daughter has failed, so Possum was invited as a last resort.
So it was time to prove our worth to the townfolk. Which Possum promptly did by cutting down the entire island’s supply of trees. Gee, I wonder why chemists are so despised? Still gathering ingredients it’s an important element of the game. Possum had three items, an ax, a scythe, and a hammer. Different items work on different objects, for example, an ax worked on the trees, a hammer on rocks, etc etc. There are also monsters to fight in a top-down fashion, and while any item will work, different items have different attack patterns. Monsters drop ingredients as well, and I needed a mixture of both monster parts and herbs for making the potions. Actually, I recommend harvesting and killing as much as your stamina bar allows. Lucky for us, everything respawns the next day.
Then there’s making potions. Each ingredient represents a separate colored block, and each potion is a different shape that must be filled by the blocks. I really liked this element as it forced me to go outside my comfort zone to find the materials needed to solve the puzzles. For example, I deemed it better not to mess with the bears, but I ended up needing to defeat them to get a certain ingredient/block shape from them.
The third part of gameplay is treating the townfolk of their various woes. Now, full disclosure, I work in the medical field, and I love gamified medical stuff. This game delivers an acceptable gamified medical package complete with fake medical conditions, diagnosing patients, patient satisfaction, etc. I also really enjoyed the button-pressing mini-game used to diagnose patients.
Between these things, it led to a predictable but comforting ritual every day. Wake up, gather ingredients, make potions, try to befriend the townsfolk, and treat the occasional sick person. As Possum does these things, more and more of the map unlocks.
Potion Permit has some remarkably smooth and natural feeling gameplay, with many quality of life features that I appreciated immensely. There’s fast traveling, quest markers, the ability to tell when selecting a town person if you’ve talked to them already, a progress bar that comes up every time interacting with someone, the ability to view block shapes in the field, etc etc etc. If it’s something I would want for a better experience, the game almost certainly has it.
The cherry on top is the aesthetics of the game. The pixel art is pretty on point. I’m not a huge fan of the character’s art styles, but everything else is gorgeous. The soundtrack is also, phenomenal, and I will definitely buy it once available.
In fact, I can’t remember having this much fun getting into a game in a long time. The demo for Next Fest was pretty lengthy (in my opinion) and I think was a pretty good indicator of what to expect. I think it’s pretty great, and see myself sinking a lot of time into it when it comes out.