(This title is available on PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, and PC. This review covers the PS4 version.)
Potion Permit is a cozy small-town simulator with a puzzle-solving twist. It plays like Stardew Valley, or one of the Story of Seasons games, gradually telling its characters’ stories through small interactions. There’s no farm to manage and no livestock to raise — instead, you use your cauldron to craft potions as the town’s only chemist.
The action in this game comes from cutting, smashing, and chopping through monsters, rocks, and trees to get components for your cauldron. You’ll collect items for every resident in Moonbury, the central location in Potion Permit.
Almost every one of Moonbury’s residents views you as a suspicious outsider until you prove otherwise. You’re only allowed to stay in town because your skills can create medicine to cure illnesses. (Get it? You’ve got a permit to craft potions.)
The potion-crafting mechanics aren’t as nuanced as something you’d find in the Atelier series, but they’re fun spatial puzzles where you cram different shapes into specific templates. These cauldron conundrums are only part of the healing process; separate minigames locate and diagnose specific illnesses before identifying which potions will be effective.
Potion Permit offers a wide range of opportunities to interact with the town and its inhabitants. Your house can be upgraded and decorated with furniture. You can collect raw ingredients and recipes to do some cooking. You’ll want to upgrade your home and the clinic where you treat villagers, and you need to improve your tools to collect new materials. You can also go fishing, which has different tiers of difficulty.
What Lies Beneath
The different activities in Potion Permit are a good way to keep busy while making incremental progress towards larger goals. The traditional grind to save money becomes more interesting when you take on part-time jobs at the town hall, post office, and police station.
However, the reach to include this wide range of activities means that none of them end up particularly deep. There are objects you can interact with all over town, but they mostly involve sitting in different places. Gathering materials means repetitive trips to grab the same items that regenerate in the same locations each day.
Potion Permit’s design choices also simplify the player’s experience in ways that limit its storytelling potential. Moonbury’s residents only accept one specific item as a gift, which removes the opportunity to see how characters react when they get something they love (or hate). Townspeople don’t organize festivals or special occasions, and while the days change during the week, there is no change in seasons or months.
The streamlined mechanics of Potion Permit have simplified some genre staples to the point where they can feel like a grind. However, this game should still be fun for people motivated to learn more about Moonbury’s inhabitants — the town a is lively place where more than 30 individuals pursue daily routines. They interact with each other and the player in ways that suggest an established community, making it more rewarding when you earn that community’s trust.
|A village full of distinct characters||Limited opportunities for character development|
|Wide range of in-game activities||Interactions can be excessively simple|
|Lots of materials for crafting||Gathering items gets repetitive|
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