Potion Permit Review – A Chemist’s Life For Me

The residents of Moonbury have a bitter history with the Medical Association. Sometime in the past, some chemists from the capital dealt untold damage to the surrounding areas, rendering many plants extinct and even claiming lives. After a long period of separation from the Medical Association, it’s up to you, a young chemist, to solve Moonbury’s problems, starting with the mayor’s ill daughter and the local witch doctor’s inability to cure her. You also have a dog. Yes, you can pet the dog.

This is Potion Permit’s premise, and it’s as good as any life simulation game – at least in this one, you’re not handed a plot of land from a dying grandparent. Instead, you’re a true fish out of water in a new town, and you’re made to feel like it. Barely anyone will give you a chance, simply regarding you as some interloper from the big city, and you have to earn your place in Moonbury through toil and trouble. It’s a breath of fresh air in a genre where you’re so often treated with limitless kindness and patience.

The first thing that strikes you when you start your journey in Potion Permit is just how gorgeous the game is. There’s an attention-to-detail in the pixel art that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, the colour palette is perfect for the game’s tone, and the character designs convey a lot of personality. Moonbury is a beautiful town to explore as a result. Something I adored was how personalised the residents’ homes were. The town blacksmiths’ bedrooms are full of gorgeous weapons, the spooky graveyard keeper has pinned butterfly displays, and the bait shop is full of nautical baubles, all stunningly drawn in the game’s beautiful style.

Carrying out your job as the town’s chemist makes up the central gameplay, consisting of various minigames. Diagnosing issues is done on a part-by-part basis, with memory and rhythm minigames making up the bulk of gameplay in the early hours, with some variety being mixed in once you unlock more complex conditions. Once you’ve identified what’s wrong with your patient, it’s time to start mixing up some potions, which happens at your trusty cauldron. This takes the form of a puzzle minigame where you’re presented with a grid, which must be filled in using the materials and resources you’ve gathered on expeditions out of town. Each material has its own shape, and some recipes will prevent you from using certain categories, making your job that much harder.

Establishing a new life as Moonbury’s chemist is a gradual process. The game drip-feeds you new mechanics over time in a way that ensures you never get overwhelmed. You’ll start off learning how the potion crafting mechanics work, and how to boost your relationship with your new neighbours, and eventually take on quests that unlock fishing and home expansions. The gameplay cycle settles in quite quickly – you wake up, check on any patients you might have gained overnight, take care of any pressing treatments, and then explore Moonbury and the surrounding areas to deal with your goals, whether that involves gathering materials for potions and upgrades, meeting up with residents to progress events, or handing in items to complete quests.

The quests rack up quite quickly, so there’s always something driving you forwards. Many of these quests are gained by being in the right place at the right time, and while that sounds like a recipe for disaster and frustration, handy notice boards helpfully hint at the right direction, giving you explicit locations and timescales to start new quests or event chains. Disappointingly, most of the quests are very basic, amounting to fetch quests that require a set amount of resources or crafting a unique potion. Thankfully, they’re easy to complete and never take up too much time, and you can even get your dog to lead you directly to any NPC you need to talk to.

A lot of events and quests link tightly with the relationship system. As with most life simulation games, you’ll get closer to your neighbours as you speak with them, a helpful bar filling up whenever you greet them, once per day. You can also give characters gifts to get a significant boost to their relationship meters – unlike other games, however, there is only one gift item: Moon Cloves. These are gained through completing quests and treating patients, and the simplicity is refreshing. There’s no need for complex spreadsheets of likes and dislikes, simplifying the gift-giving process exponentially.

As you’d expect, there’s also some romance – three bachelors and three bachelorettes, to be exact. While the romance aspects don’t come to the fore until much later in their relationship quest chains, there are some intimate hints peppered throughout to keep you interested, and they tend to be interesting characters to begin with. Xiao and Matheo, for example, make a lot of appearances early in the game, piquing your interest, and Rue, the mayor’s daughter, is your whole reason for coming to Moonbury in the first place. The narrative importance placed on these characters lends to their believability as objects of your affections.

Getting to know Moonbury’s residents is another highlight. As you start getting closer to your new neighbours and earning their trust, you’ll start to feel like you’re becoming a part of the community. You’ll defrost their cold, capital-hating hearts and cement your place in the town as their trustworthy new companion and provider of care. It gives you a purpose that is so often missing from life sims, and it’s how you’ll reveal the town’s somewhat mysterious and melancholy past.

Venturing outside of Moonbury will lead you into danger, but this is something you’ll need to do. This is where you’ll gather resources for potions or quests, whether it’s by chopping down trees and breaking rocks or defeating monsters in combat for their materials. At the start of the game, this seems to take up more time than you’d expect and feels a little monotonous, but once you progress a little and start opening up new areas, material gathering becomes a breeze, and combat encounters start requiring enough skill to be satisfying. It’s very basic, though – your tools’ upgrade levels dictate how long you can string combos, and you’re given a simple dodge roll for avoiding attacks. I’d describe the game’s combat as ‘serviceable’ – it’s definitely not the main focus of the game but there are enough mechanics at work to make things interesting.

While life simulation games tend to be quite easy in the name of creating a relaxing experience, even for the genre, Potion Permit is extremely easy, potentially to its detriment. I never failed a minigame, never failed to catch a hint thrown at me in dialogue, and never struggled with the potion crafting. In fact, the only thing that stopped me in my tracks was a game-breaking bug that often removed entire quests from my quest log, leaving me unable to complete them. This meant that various residents would forever be locked to the base trust level, making me an untrustworthy newbie no matter how many months I stuck around.

There’s a lot to love about Potion Permit. It’s a game that, as mentioned, gives you a purpose, and does a great job of letting you experience the journey from total newcomer to heart of the community. It’s a perfect game for those seeking a relaxing, chilled-out experience – a tonic for a market filled with life sims that emphasise profit and efficiency. The only things lacking are a little difficulty to keep things interesting and some bug fixing to keep things running smoothly.

Review code was provided by the publisher.

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