Potion Permit Review (Switch)

Potion Permit Review: chemistry, my dear!

Potion Permit Review

It’s a bold and risky move when a game markets itself as kin to a fan favorite. Oh sure, there may be similarities here and there, and it certainly helps in painting a picture of what the game could be about when likening it to another, but it’s also not uncommon to set impossibly high expectations this way. For example — calling Potion Permit a Stardew Valley-esque alchemy life sim. Is there any truth to the comparison, or is it all hype?

Potion Permit opens up on a travelling chemist (you) making their way from the capital to the tiny town of Moonbury. You’ve been called on special assignment — you see, the mayor of Moonbury’s daughter is ill, and none of the treatments their resident witch doctor provided have done the girl any good. Desperate to save his daughter and all out of options, the mayor does the unthinkable and calls upon the capital to send a chemist in the hopes that his precious child will be saved. Are you up to the task?

Potion Permit

In case you didn’t notice, there’s a whole can of worms that’ve been opened up by your mere presence in Moonbury. You see, the previous chemist left such a mark on the happy little hamlet that caused a ripple effect across the island. Somehow causing all the native plants to go extinct, the chemist was banned from Moonbury, and a law was passed preventing anyone sharing the profession from setting foot in the village. You’re the first chemist to arrive in many a season, so the townsfolk are naturally wary of your presence. It’s up to you to gain their trust by healing what ails them while respecting their beautiful surrounds.

Potion Permit’s story and mechanics all blend seamlessly into each other, one leading into the other, by way of the trust and relationship system. At first, the townsfolk are incredibly distrustful of you and will brusquely tell you where to shove your pleasantries should you try to make polite conversation. Once you tend to the mayor’s daughter and begin healing the other neighbors, however, they’ll begin to open up to you, your trust level thereby increasing. The more the townsfolk trust you, the more quests and activities begin to open up. This not only makes relationship building a major mechanic, but a meaningful one too.

After you’re done hamming it up with the entire hamlet, you’ll need to venture out into the wildnerness to gather materials. It’s here where you’ll spend quite a bit of your time going out into the forest, hitting things until they die and give you potion ingredients, rinse and repeat. You can also break down stones and chop down trees for building materials and quest items; luckily, there’s a little item shop at the forest’s entry where you can buy some of the most common ingredients, which is good for those days when can’t be bothered to traipse around in the woods forever.

When it comes to chemistry, Potion Permit will instantly remind players of both Tetris and the Atelier series. After collecting ingredients to your heart’s content, you’ll be able to make a slew of different concocctions for your clientele. Simply put, each ingredient has a “fingerprint” that looks an awfully lot like a Tetris piece, and each potion has a specific shape that needs filling. By plugging the Tetris pieces into the correct spots, players will be able to brew the finest potions Moonbury has ever seen, healing the sick and making the wounded well again.

Potion Permit

But how will you know which potion to administer, you might ask? Turns out, you’ll not only be crafting potions but diagnosing your patients as well! When someone falls ill, they’ll be carried to your clinic and set up in an empty bed, which will set off your alarm. You’ll then need to rush to their bedside and ask what ails them; once they tell  you, you’ll need to investigate that part of their body, then begin the diagnosis procedure. This procedure is a mini-game — usually rhythm-based — that demands stellar execution to succeed. Once diagnosed, you can then administer treatment though the aforementioned potions. Heal enough patients and you’ll earn the town’s trust in no time!

Potion Permit has more to offer besides these core mechanics, such as a fishing mini-game, an arcade with several whack-a-mole machines, and even a romance option, but I found all of them to be a little on the light side. I especially wished for a deeper romance machanic, as it was disappointing to learn that residents would only accept one specific gift instead of whatever I had in my pockets. I also was a little let down that there weren’t character portraits, as seeing a fully-illustrated image of the potential love interests was always a fun aspect in similar titles like Story of Seasons. And although I had my heart set on Xiao from the moment I first saw him, I agree with the general sentiment that it’s a travesty Helene can’t be romanced. Can’t woo ’em all, I guess.

Potion Permit

Where there were some letdowns, there were also some fantastic quality of life improvements that I hope become staples in the genre. Teleportation is a breeze — as long as the teleportation markers stay active, that is. It’s nice to be able to stay out late in the woods collecting ingredients, then teleport immediately home without worry about things like stamina. Another aspect I loved was the dog (obviously), as the canine companion served to track down NPCs. This allowed me to not have to worry about NPC schedules and just focus on the important things like healing patients and chopping down every tree in sight.

So, is Potion Permit like Stardew Valley? I mean, it certainly looks like it, and it loosely shares a general loop, but the two are quite distinct from each other. Potion Permit feels great as an alchemy simulator, but everything else townside could have gone a little deeper. I wished for something like an alchemy garden and more variety in the arcade. I craved more character development from the NPCs and perhaps even more romance options (seriously, why not Helene?). And why oh why is that fishing mini-game so confusing? I get the feeling that Potion Permit will absolutely sink its claws into players who want to melt into the couch cushions as they play a relaxing life sim, but make no mistake — Stardew Valley it is not.

And that’s fine. It can be its own thing. Just manage your expectations accordingly!

Potion Permit is a quaint little alchemy simulator that will delight anyone looking for something cozy. It’s not exactly the Stardew Valley sibling it appears to be, but it has the potential to become just as beloved in its own right nonetheless. If you’re hurting for a cute life sim that blossoms over time, Potion Permit will cure what ails you.

Final Verdict: 3.5/5

Available on: PC, PS4, PS5, XBox One, XBox Series X|S, Switch (Reviewed); Publisher: PQube; Developer: MassHive Media; Players: 1; Released: September 22, 2022; MSRP: $19.99

Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Potion Permit provided by the publisher.

Heather Johnson Yu
Born at a very young age; self-made thousandaire. Recommended by 4 out of 5 people that recommend things. Covered in cat hair. Probably the best sleeper in the world. Still haven't completed the civil war quest in Skyrim but I'm kind of okay with that. Too rad to be sad.

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