Potion Permit, the review of the life sim that looks at Stardew Valley

The Potion Permit review allows us to take on the role of a pharmacist who has to navigate a life sim that looks to Stardew Valley.

The Indonesian independent firm MassHive Media – former author of the turn-based RPG Azure Saga: Pathfinder, released four years ago – was among the protagonists of the last Wholesome Direct 2022 with the trailer for Potion Permit. Perfect for the relaxed tones of the event, Potion Permit immediately interested us thanks to its delightful pixel art and its non-trivial theme: the protagonist is a budding pharmacist and to continue our career we will have to fight monsters, find the right cure for the sick and earn the trust of the people of Moonbury.

After many hours in the company of the title developed by MassHive Media, we are ready to tell you what we think in ours Potion Permit review.

Moonbury, here we come!

The cover image of Potion Permit

It often happens to treat the protagonists of our favorite video games with concoctions of various kinds and medicinal potions, but have you ever wondered how these are produced? Certainly there is behind the skilful hand of a pharmacist, expert connoisseur of the products of the natural world and their properties. Potion Permit looks at the pharmacological art of past centuries, when the pharmacist was also a doctor, botanist, and perhaps a magician and alchemist, the holder of all-round knowledge.

After a brief editor to build the aesthetics of our character, we witness the conversation between the head of the Medical Association of the capital of a fantasy world with the protagonist, sent to the distant Moonbury Island to represent the association. When the train arrives at the station, we meet the mayor, his wife and the other locals, all gathered in the local pub to welcome us. Not everyone is happy with our arrival: one of the themes that will follow us for the course of the entire adventure immediately emerges – which can be completed in about twenty hours – namely the need to earn the trust and respect of the citizens of the island. Yes, because there are some dark secrets to the Medical Association’s operated past at Moonbury.

Exploring the green expanses of the island at the search for ingredients for potions, we will discover that some plants have become extinct, and we will find strange craters that regurgitate a mysterious purple liquid. It is evident that a real disaster has happened, and this is the reason why the initial conversations with the inhabitants are often cold and detached: on the island there is a strong distrust towards anyone coming from the capital. We need to roll up our sleeves and prove our worth, starting with Rue, the mayor’s daughter, sick and in need of care.

We followed with interest the events of the citizens of Moonbury and the developments of their relations with the protagonist, thanks to a good writing level and a character design that manages to give life and panache to all the supporting actors of the adventure. However, once the events of the small town were over, we felt unwilling to continue with the work as a pharmacist.

Just a little sugar and the potion goes down


Pharmacological art is at the heart of Potion Permit
Pharmacological art is at the heart of Potion Permit

We said that pharmacological art is central to Potion Permit: everything revolves around the study of new recipes and to the finding of ingredients in the ecosystems of the island, to then apply our knowledge to the diagnosis of patients and, finally, to their treatment. We are introduced to these mechanics – the beating heart of the gameplay – through Rue, who has been ill for months, who has not benefited from the treatments offered by the sorcerer Matheo, hostile to everything that is vaguely related to the world of science.

The first step in approaching the patient is the diagnosis: based on what the patient says, we focus on examining a part of the painful body to find out what is wrong. Everything takes place through minigames really very simple, like pressing the buttons in time, or repeating a certain sequence of keys. Here, a first drawback of Potion Permit is right here: the minigames are soon repetitive and trivial, not able to offer even a minimum degree of challenge, and it’s a real shame. Once this phase is over, the pharmacist will be able to identify a cure, and at this point our trusty cauldron comes into play.


One of the Potion Permit minigames
One of the Potion Permit minigames

Contrary to the diagnosis minigames, the Tetris-like aimed at “building” the potions can be said to be really successful, fun and stimulating. It is necessary to use the ingredients – herbs, mushrooms, but also stones and bear skins – taking into account the shape assigned to them for the composition of the concoctions, respecting a maximum of usable elements and making sure to exactly cover the contours of the potion in question. A game of joints, therefore, which in its simplicity manages to involve the player, especially in the case of the most advanced potions. Once the work is done, you can go back to the clinic to apply the right treatment for the patient.

Carrying out these steps flawlessly will allow us to heal him and build confidence inhabitants of Moonbury towards us, allowing us to find out more about them, to undertake missions assigned by them and thus continue in the plot of Potion Permit. Leaving the sick to their fate will mean losing prestige in the eyes of the community, which will be forced to turn to Matheo, always happy to snatch some patients from us: the best strategy is to dedicate oneself to the sick in the early hours of the day and make them our priority, an easier task. from the proximity of the clinic to the pharmacist’s home.

An adventurous pharmacist


A moment of meeting with the characters of Potion Permit
A moment of meeting with the characters of Potion Permit

It is easy to think that Potion Permit is all here: diagnosis, preparation of the right potion, patient care. Not so: as also happens in Stardew Valley – albeit with a more imaginative thrust and strong fantasy implications – even in the title signed by MassHive Media there are exploration and combat sessions, aimed at finding ever new resources and materials for our potions.

There is a coincidence (functional, of course, but at first a little curious) between the instruments harvesting and offensive ones: hammer, sickle and ax are used depending on the situation to split rocks, cut basil stems and get wood from trees, but they are also tools of death for the poor beasts that we will find on our path. We say “poor” because the AI ​​of the enemies is certainly not the brightest, and the cheapness of the cures available to us – foods that can be purchased at the local pub – combined with the often low levels of HP of the opponents will make them cannon fodder to be exterminated. mercilessly. In a video game that talks about values ​​such as respect for nature and looks with concern at its unregulated exploitation by man, mercilessly killing hundreds of wild animals with the same sickle with which we collect wild herbs generates in the player, in the long run, a certain sense of perplexity.


Potion Permit exploration
Potion Permit exploration

In addition, the sessions of collection of materials they quickly turn into a real effort, thanks to the request for immense amounts of money, wood and rocks to upgrade their tools and to discover new areas of the game world. Among the three, the easiest to earn is undoubtedly money: just devote yourself to simple mini-games (very repetitive, such as diagnosis) to help out at the post office, church or police station and be rewarded daily for our “hard” work. As for wood and rocks, we will have to cut down an infinite number of trees and hammer left and right, and a sense of strong repetition will be inevitable.

It’s a shame, because the gameplay loop of Potion Permit is effective and pleasant, capable of generating a spiral of pleasant activities, interspersed with pleasant interactions with the inhabitants of Moonbury, which reminded us closely of Stardew Valley. As mentioned, however, Stardew Valley drew lymph and liveliness from fantasy and supernatural elements, while Potion Permit remains, in the long run, too prosaic and anchored to pressing and concrete needs – look for jasmine, chop wood, kill the bear – to stand out. flight.

Joy of living in pixel art


The artistic direction of Potion Permit reserves some surprises
The artistic direction of Potion Permit reserves some surprises

And to say that the Artistic direction He does everything he can to convey a sense of beauty: MassHive Media’s work reveals a deep knowledge of pixel art and a strong talent for building a coherent world from an artistic point of view. In this sense, Potion Permit’s design choices reminded us of Eastward, another oriental production title, one of the most brilliant last year from an aesthetic point of view.

From a technical point of view, we had no problems with the test configuration: Potion Permit is not demanding and the minimum system requirements are pretty accommodating. In the run-up to the game’s release, the team released several updates to fix some bugs we haven’t had direct experience of. We loved the sound design, capable of being a pleasant counterpoint to adventure, with some catchy themes (and whistles in your free time!). We recommend, if possible, to use headphones for an enveloping effect; shame about some abrupt transitions in the sound effects in some cutscenes and game situations.


Potion Permit is not localized in Italian
Potion Permit is not localized in Italian

Finally, we remind you that Potion Permit it is not currently equipped with an Italian translation: To better appreciate the details of the story, to read the interesting descriptions of the potions, ingredients and inhabitants of Moonbury – unlockable by earning their trust and carrying out missions for them – it will be necessary to have a good knowledge of the English language.

Comment

Tested version Windows PC

Digital Delivery

Steam

Indonesian studio MassHive Media shines in building a convincing story and characters, and the idea of ​​living the life of a budding pharmacist – undoubtedly original in the gaming landscape – proves to be winning and stimulating for the players. Too bad for a gameplay loop that in the long run cannot escape repetitiveness, but it is a title that will certainly be appreciated by fans of unconventional life sims.

PRO

  • The idea of ​​playing a pharmacist was original
  • Fantastic art direction
  • Interesting story and well written characters

VERSUS

  • The grinding of materials becomes a pain in the long run
  • Repetitive battles and bad enemy AI
  • Really too simple minigames

Potion Permit, the review of the life sim that looks at Stardew Valley