Years ago I played Stardew Valley and had a blast playing it. While there were games in the life sim genre before it, the game is likely responsible for the massive increase in indie games trying to capture its success in recent years. When I first saw Potion Permit I was intrigued. While the Stardew Valley inspiration was obvious, I thought the idea of being the local doctor/potion maker was an interesting twist on the genre that might distinguish the game from most of the other games in the genre. Potion Permit is a fun game that fans of life sim games like Stardew Valley will likely really enjoy, even if it could be a little deeper in a few areas.
In Potion Permit you play as a chemist. The daughter of the mayor of Moonbury has become ill. The local witch doctor has not been successful in treating her illness. The Medical Association sends you to Moonbury to try and help her. Because of events from the past, the residents of Moonbury are really hesitant about people and advances from the outside world. Can you gain the resident’s trust and help them deal with their medial issues?
When I first saw Potion Permit it reminded me of Stardew Valley. After playing the game that comparison is pretty accurate as it is obvious that the game took quite a bit of inspiration from it. The actual gameplay is quite a bit different, but the two games have a very similar feel to them.
Instead of running a farm like in Stardew Valley, you instead basically act as the town’s doctor. Every so often one of the town’s residents will get sick. In order to keep your standing in town and earn some money, you will have to treat them.
You begin by trying to diagnose their illness. They will give you a general synopsis of their issue(s). You will then select the area on their body and diagnose what is affecting them. Sometimes you know exactly what is wrong, and other times you need to do further analysis. This involves completing one of a number of mini games. How well you do in them determines the patient’s satisfaction and also unlocks how to treat them.
Once you know how to treat them, you have to craft a potion(s). Each potion in the game has a specific area of a grid that you have to fill in to craft the potion. You will use various ingredients to fill in the area. In a way this kind of plays like Tetris. You basically need to find a set of ingredients that completely fill in the required area without going outside of it. Some potions also require you to only use certain types of ingredients.
Once you know what potion you need to make, it is time to search for the necessary ingredients. To begin the game one area is unlocked on the outside of town for you to explore. As you advance in the game additional areas are unlocked. These areas have a number of creatures to deal with as well as various plants, rocks, and trees to acquire resources from. You have a dodge ability to quickly avoid enemy attacks. To defeat an enemy you need to deal enough damage with one of your tools to deplete their health.
You need to use the appropriate tool to break the resources to acquire the ingredients. Each time you use a tool you will deplete some of your energy. Once you have run out of energy you can’t gather anymore resources for the rest of the day. You can always eat some food to restore some of your energy though.
Outside of gathering resources and crafting potions, most of the game is built around improving your relationship with Moonbury’s 30 different inhabitants. Talking with residents increases your reputation with them. You can also acquire a giftable object when you complete various missions or heal residents. You can use these gifts to improve your relationship quicker. When you reach a new level of relationship with a character you learn more about them through a cutscene and a new entry in their profile. Eventually you can improve your relationship with some of the residents far enough that you can date some of them (the game does not have marriage in it at this time).
Heading into Potion Permit I was expecting a Stardew Valley type game. While the game is different in quite a few ways, it still has that same general feel to it. The game has some action/adventure elements to it. It is a laid back experience for the most part though. You can take your time as there is no real time crunch as you are mostly free to do what you want each day.
Your opinion of Stardew Valley and other games in this genre is likely going to translate to Potion Permit. If you have played other games in this genre before and didn’t really care for them, I can’t see you enjoying Potion Permit either. Fans of this genre should continue reading as there are likely a lot of elements of the game that you will enjoy.
For the most part I had fun with Potion Permit. The game does a good job recreating what is usually the most enjoyable elements of these type of games. It is fun helping the various residents as you grow your relationships with them and improve the town. The gameplay is quite straightforward and pretty relaxing.
While it does feel a lot like Stardew Valley, Potion Permit does have elements that are unique. Instead of growing crops to make money, most of the gameplay is built around exploring the areas outside of town to gather resources. This plays a lot like your typical action/adventure game. The combat is a little basic, but it is fun enough. I wish there was a little more variety, but otherwise I had fun with the exploration mechanics.
The potion making is pretty fun as well. In a way it feels like a puzzle game. You need to figure out how to best use your ingredients. There is usually a limit to how many ingredients you can use. You also want to avoid wasting ingredients. I wouldn’t say the puzzles are particularly hard, but I had fun with them. Once you have crafted a potion five or more times, you can also save your solutions. You can then keep making potions with those ingredients with one button press. I am curious if the game can eventually add more to the potion making mechanics, but I generally found them to be satisfying.
The various minigames to figure out the patient’s ailments are fine. These minigames are generally really simple such as a Simon Says game, a rhythm game, an avoid the obstacles exercise, and a few others. You can have some fun with them, but they get a little repetitive after a while.
The final mechanic of Potion Permit is the relationship building element. There are things that I liked about it and others that I think could have been better. I was genuinely kind of impressed with the number of villagers in the game. There are around 30 of them and you can increase your relationship with each of them three or four levels.
The thing I liked the most about the relationship element of Potion Permit is the characters themselves. I found Moonbury to have an interesting group of villagers to interact with. As you grow your relationship with each of them, you learn more about them as well.
Another thing that I really liked about the relationship aspect of the game, is that Potion Permit was smart by making it easy to find residents at any given time. While playing Stardew Valley it was kind of annoying trying to find some of the residents at times. You basically needed to learn their schedules or look up in a guide how to find them. Potion Permit lets you interact with your dog and choose one of the residents. They will then run towards the resident’s current location and you only need to follow them in order to find the resident. I found this to be really useful.
The game’s story is pretty good as well. There are elements of the story that seem familiar, but I thought the story was told well for the most part. Some people probably won’t like that you have no real impact on the story itself. You don’t really have the opportunity to make decisions that have any real impact on the story. The story is pretty linear, but it was compelling enough that I want to see how it ends.
On top of the story I thought the game’s visual style was really good as well. The game’s visuals remind me a lot of the SNES era of RPGs. The world shows a lot of detail and the characters have their own unique look. If you generally like this visual style, you will likely really like the visuals of Potion Permit.
There are a lot of things that I liked about Potion Permit. I did have a couple of issues with the game though.
With how much inspiration that Potion Permit took from games like Stardew Valley, I found it to be a little disappointing that it feels a little shallow at times. The gameplay is fun enough, but a lot of things seem a little too simplified/basic.
To illustrate lets talk about the relationship element of Potion Permit. There are basically two ways to raise your relationship with each of the residents. Mostly it comes down to persistence. Basically you want to walk up to as many people as you can each day and talk with them. They usually only say one of a few different phrases every single day. You can also occasionally give them gifts. There is only one gift type in the game though, so there is no variety in the gift giving. You will basically do this every day until you raise your relationship up to the maximum level.
This also applies to the resource gathering aspect of the game. Gathering resources and crafting potions is fun. After a while though it starts to get a little repetitive. Everyday (usually right away in the morning since everyone is sleeping) you will go to one of the areas that you have unlocked in order to gather resources. The resources are located in the exact same locations every single day. Therefore there is really no exploration to this aspect of the game. You basically build up a routine and just do the same things every day. While this is still fun, a little more variety to the gameplay would have been appreciated.
Heading into the game you also need to be aware that the game is not particularly challenging. You can’t die in the game. You can only pass out from running out of health or staying out too late. When you pass out you just wake up later the next day. Later in the game it might get harder to keep up with the number of patients, but you usually will have way more ingredients than you ever need to treat your patients for the day. You can then either craft potions to sell for money, or you can just build up a huge backlog of ingredients. These type of games are meant to be on the more relaxing side, but don’t expect a great challenge out of Potion Permit.
I have also encountered a number of bugs while playing the game. I am going to preface this by saying that I played the game on PlayStation 5 and I started my game on a pre-release version of the game. Because of this, the bugs I ended up encountering may not impact you.
Most of the bugs I encountered were pretty minor. Once I got stuck after completing one of the side jobs where I couldn’t move. One of the teleport locations randomly placed me inside some trees one day so I had to use a different teleport location. There were a few other issues as well. All of these issues were resolved by restarting the game. Thus I ended up only having to restart the last day.
I did encounter a couple more significant issues though. Even though I had acquired the resources needed to open up the second area of the game, for quite a while when I tried to open it up nothing happened and I could no longer interact with things. This forced me to close the game and restart it. This seems to have been fixed with a recent update. The current bug that I am dealing with is that when I start up the game normally I cannot load my game as the game locks up. I was able to bypass this issue by launching an activity for the game on PlayStation.
Some of these issues have already been fixed and those that haven’t likely will be fixed soon. I wanted to point them out though as you may encounter some bugs while playing the game. If you are having issues with the PlayStation 5 version of the game, I would also try to launch the game through an activity since that helped me bypass some of the bugs.
For the most part Potion Permit is a lot like what I expected it would be. As soon as you start playing the game it is obvious that the game took quite a bit of inspiration from Stardew Valley. The feel of the game is very similar even though the gameplay is focused more on exploration/adventure as you search for ingredients to make potions. Most of these elements are pretty fun. The game is easy to play and quite relaxing. The story, characters, and visuals are quite good as well.
The main issue with Potion Permit comes from the fact that the game feels too simplistic in some areas. The game could use some more depth in areas, as it does get a little repetitive. Hopefully the game gets some updates which add more to the game. I also encountered a number of bugs while playing Potion Permit.
My recommendation for Potion Permit basically comes down to your feelings towards Stardew Valley type games and your thoughts on the potion making premise. If you aren’t a big fan of this genre, I don’t see Potion Permit being for you. If you generally enjoy these type of games though and think the premise sounds interesting, I think you will enjoy Potion Permit and should consider picking it up.
Release Date: September 22, 2022 | Systems: Mac, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Developer: MassHive Media | Publisher: PQube | ESRB Rating: Everyone for Alcohol References, Mild Fantasy Violence
Genres: Adventure, Casual, Indie, Life Sim
Official Website: https://pqube.co.uk/potion-permit/
- A fun new take on your typical life sim game.
- The story, characters, and visual style are all well done.
- Some elements of the game could be a little deeper leading to it getting repetitive at times.
- Has some bugs at this time.
Recommendation: For fans of life sim games like Stardew Valley who are intrigued by the game’s premise.
Where to Purchase: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Steam, Xbox One/Series X|S
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank MassHive Media and PQube for the review copy of Potion Permit used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.