The Gameboy Advance was arguably a handheld console that presented some of the most unique and simple games of the late 90s and 00s. Holding onto the modest bit system, the GBA ran on 32-bit processors and gave us colorful and recognizable 16-bit graphics. These graphics gave us memorable games such as Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Pokemon: Saphire and Ruby, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, and many many more. Potion Permit is a delightful nostalgic ode to that era and those colorful, creative 16-bit epics. Touted as a “casual” game, Potion Permit aims not to stress you out or test your brainpower or gamer reflexes, but because of how slow it lets you get to speed, that can also be a detriment.
Potion Permit Biggest Takeaways
- Lovely nostalgic color and game designs from the early and mid-00s
- Overly easy instructions and mini-games can cause tedium and monotony
- Foraging needs and Potion making can come all at once or be sparse
- The game takes its time to get going and sometimes the pace just isn’t there
- A game for those who strive for patience but also diligence above all else
- Final Score: 7/10
You are a chemist from the Capital, still learning your craft when your teacher sends you to the quiet town of Moonbury. They aren’t very trustworthy of the Capital or of apothecaries. You are the town pharmacist now. The last chemist who lived and worked there didn’t seem to do well and there is a lot of distrust. That’s part of your story, to find out what happened and gain everyone’s trust again. Seems simple enough… and actually, it kind of is.
The Mayor’s daughter is sick, and you have to gradually build back what was once lost in the town. Heal the little girl, heal others who are sick and also work around the town. Get to know the townsfolk better. While these sound like tall orders or a lot of work, the direction the game takes isn’t one of urgency. You have plenty of time to build your resources and get to know the townspeople, however, the initial tutorial chapter takes a bit.
Working for the Town
There is a lot of need in Potion Permit. You will spend a LOT of your time in the forest, using tools to break down objects such as trees, rocks, and flowers to gather ingredients for your potions. There are also plenty of creatures, regular and fantasy that you will have to fight and overcome and use their material in crafting as well. You will always need to be aware of different ingredients and how they will fit and work in the potion puzzles you work through to make the remedies you need. Foraging can be easy enough, but you have to watch out for time, stamina, and health.
There are lots of mini-games in dealing with discovering what ails your patients. They aren’t very hard, sometimes they can even come off as repetitive and annoying if you have lots of patients at once or make one slip up that keeps you from completing the examination. None of this really detracts from what you’re doing, but it just can bog down your desire to continue if you don’t keep things diverse. You also have to keep up with your house and clinic and befriend the villagers to get more money and for things to go smoother as you progress. Do not put these things off.
If you’re one for fetch quests, then you’re in luck, everything in the game really is a fetch quest, so hope you are prepared for that. The whole game is really designed around needing a thing or things, and going to get them wherever they may be. Even to befriend the villagers, which is as important as healing them, will take time to gather the items you need. Also, it might suddenly be items you were saving for more complex potions, so if you ever think you “have enough” of one ingredient, chances are, you don’t.
Time is not completely of the essence
What might be the biggest detriment while also being possibly Potion Permit’s most alluring factor, is the long game. The game takes no issue with you having to work literally days to advance your place among the town. It’s your standard 60 seconds equals one hour time stamp. You can complete a full day in roughly 30 minutes or so. It’s a full-on time cycle, and while the game does tout some time limits, there’s also that Animal Crossing quality of going at your own pace for most things. I myself found it taking about 2 or 3 hours before it felt like the game truly started. After that, it was about 8 total hours before it felt like everything was flowing well and the game had really begun to offer all it could while still having plenty to explore with many elements of gameplay left under wraps.
There is a lot of doing things yourself and discovering how things work. Once you trigger those points, however, most of the mini-games and tutorials are pretty self-explanatory. The problem can be if you’re the type who doesn’t press every button as soon as you start or run around looking into every inch of the game, you will most likely miss something for a while till it finally, actually becomes of real use or importance. There are just too many conflicting matters where the art style, atmosphere, and even the in-game instructions themselves make it feel like you can take your time and go at your own pace. However, with the reward system of healing villagers and trying to befriend them and your 30-minute day cycle, you can still feel rushed as well.
Potion Permit’s loose and open narrative and gameplay experience don’t quite match up with its very tight clockwork gameplay mechanics. To compare to Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing, while you CAN do everything in a single day and try and cram it all in because you don’t want to leave anything behind, you don’t have to. Potion Permit seems that way, but then you run out of a specific ingredient or you haven’t healed patients in time or you ran out of days for a task. There are limits and depending on your play style you might have to micro-manage some and not be afraid to do a whole lot at once despite the casual atmosphere feeling otherwise.
This of course is no sort of deal-breaking or experience-ruining issue as a whole. Though if you want to just walk around and have fun and explore how intricate the lives and goings-ons of Moonbury are, you just have to make sure you get up real early in the morning to do your chores as it were. Like all games, you have to find and settle into a groove, however, some of the repetitive tedium and how long it takes you to get to the next step in the narrative or with certain characters can be taxing. Potion Permit’s soft charm and easy-going vibes can only take the strain of an era of 16 and 32-bit gameplay so far.
Potion Permit is available September 22nd, 2022 on Nintendo Switch and Steam. Pre-order now for 19.99$