Review: Potion Permit
Developer: MassHive Media
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4|5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC (Steam)
I checked out Potion Permit during a press preview at PAX East earlier this year, and my interest was already piqued by what I saw in the preview, but I was curious to know how the rest of the game holds up. Potion Permit has players take on the role of a chemist from what is simply referred to as 'the capital' to treat the citizens of Moonbury. The citizens of Moonbury distrust anyone from the capital due to an accident caused by the last chemist, and it's your job to convince them to trust you.
The wariness of the villagers when first entering the town is quite palpable in how they practically shun your chemist. A local witch doctor downright hates your presence in the town, so don't expect him to come around anytime soon. Once you gain the approval of the Mayor, though, they warm up quickly. There is a slew of townspeople to interact with, and in that aspect, Potion Permit shines. The characters are each unique with their own relationships with other characters, and they all have their concerns and plotlines that can be unlocked by gaining their friendship through talk and gift-giving interactions. The latter is given as Moon Cloves, which can be earned through events in the game, such as treating patients correctly.
As a chemist in Potion Permit, treating patients is fairly simple if you manage your resources well and can pass the mini-games that are often part of diagnosis. Potion Permit is chock full of mini-games. Mixing potions in your cauldron requires you to fit blocks representing your ingredients into a larger shape made of squares. Diagnosis of a patient has variations on mini-games that require you to make the correct input as they show up on screen. Part-time jobs include sorting and making more correct inputs as you race against a timer. There's even a Whack-a-Nut-Mole game in the arcade.
As mentioned before, diagnosing and treating patients correctly easily earns you Moon Cloves to be given to villagers, which significantly boosts your relationship with them. Potion Permit does offer the ability to romance three bachelors and three bachelorettes, but frankly, I found this aspect of the game lacking, and if anything, unnecessary, as building friendships with the vast majority of Moonbury residents was more interesting.
While Potion Permit shines with its NPCs, some other enjoyable aspects of it include the overall aesthetic of the game. The pixelated art is well-detailed and quite nice to look at. The sounds of Potion Permit aren't much to give a nod to, however. The character art is detailed enough to provide each NPC with a unique and recognizable look, and your player character has some options in hair, clothing, and colors that allow for various simplified looks. Part of me wished there were a few more hair options, but I was also good with what options already exist.
Another positive for Potion Permit is that there was no shortage of quests and things to do around Moonbury. Whether helping the residents, gathering potion materials, fishing, cooking, or taking on part-time jobs, Moonbury offers plenty to do around town to keep your day busy. You can even pet the dog and talk to and befriend the local cat.
Now, let's get down to some of the less fine points of Potion Permit: The game is buggy. Frankly, I'm rarely bothered by the occasional glitch or bug. Creating a game is difficult; it takes time to work out the kinks. In Potion Permit's case, some bugs make it impossible to continue the game, and as a result, you have to reset it. This would also be less of a problem if you could save anytime, but you can't. Potion Permit only has an autosave feature, which only occurs when sleeping at night. That's right; if your game glitches or a bug hits you that doesn't allow you to progress, you have to start the whole day over.
There do seem to be some differences in playability. It seems on consoles like the Switch and lower-end PCs; there is a chance of stuttering. Higher-end consoles and PCs, however, appear to experience that less, but the problems with bugs persist.
One more gripe I have is that the text is kinda small on smaller screens and monitors.
Overall, Potion Permit is a great fit for you if you're a gamer who enjoys interacting with NPCs and mini-games. However, if you're the type who cannot deal with bugs whatsoever, perhaps give Potion Permit's developers some time to work things out before playing. All-in-all, Potion Permit is a charming casual adventure RPG that exceeded my initial impression of it at PAX East. It just has a few bumps in playability here and there.