I’m a big fan of resource and time management games, juggling things around in order to make your workflow efficient and ensuring everything is running like clockwork. I’ve previously reviewed both Overcooked 2 and Welcome to Primrose Lake, two very different games with a similar concept – serving your customers by performing tasks before they get annoyed and leave your store or restaurant. This week I’ve been taking a look at Potion Party, a similar game to the above titles, only this time you’re creating potions and avoiding hazards.
Potion Party was developed by RPGames, a solo-dev from Germany. It’s his first release as his own studio, although he has worked in the industry since 2012. In terms of the publisher, I think this is the first time where I’ve seen three studios at launch, based on the platform. RPGames are self-publishing it on Steam, Top Hat Studios have ported and published it on the Nintendo Switch, and FusionPlay ported and published it on the PS4. We’ve been playing the PS4 version.
I’ve made many potions, soaked numerous thieves, dodged a lot of ghosts, and made a bunch of money, but did I have fun? Let’s find out…
There is no story within Potion Party, it’s an arcade-like casual game in which there is only one goal, make the correct potions as efficiently as you can in order to meet the daily monetary quota. There are three modes to the game, solo mode, co-op mode, and versus mode. In both solo and co-op modes you play through twelve timed missions, the versus mode splits you into two teams as you face off against each other to see who is the fastest alchemist.
The game is all about progression, you complete the mission, earn gold, buy upgrades, then move on to the next stage as you try to overcome the new hazard that’s been introduced. As such, although there are only twelve missions in the main game, each one expands on the gameplay by adding new mechanics and/or hazards to work around. You may even find yourself returning to previous stages in order to buy new upgrades and characters to help you progress if you’re finding it a little too challenging.
Potion Party is a casual game, you can either play it in short bursts due to its very easy pick-up-and-play gameplay or lose hours in it thanks to how addictive and fun it can be. Unlike Overcooked, this game seems much more relaxed and not as stressful – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve got aggressive and annoyed whilst playing that game with friends and family in the past. I’ve played Potion Party with my parents and it was a much friendlier atmosphere all around.
The gameplay mechanics are quite simple – a customer comes to your potion store and tells you which product they want. It’s then up to you to create that product from the plants you grow and the machines/tools you have to hand. Unlike similar games, you only get one customer at a time and they’re quite patient (until the later stages), so you don’t have to worry about making multiple orders at once. However, due to progression being based on how much money you make, you’ll want to get their orders done quickly so the next person can enter and tell you what they want.
You have to water your three varieties of plants then grind them up in the automatic grinders (no chopping boards here!). Then, you use the powder, water, and a glass apparatus to create a coloured potion. Sound simple? It is, until you get orders for orange, purple and green potions, requiring you to mix the powder before distilling it – later also having to use the correct flasks, some of which require multiple doses to fully fill them up. Towards the end of the campaign missions, you’ll also have a machine which (I believe) purifies the potion and makes it colourless – yet another process that takes time and delays receiving your next order.
Aside from learning and adapting to the new processes via the means of instructions made up of images and no words, you also need to be on the lookout for pesky ghosts, blobs and thieves. Ghosts will randomly fly from side to side, causing your controls to invert if they touch you, blobs will just sit there and slow you down if you walk through them, and thieves will steal anything you’ve created. Thankfully, you can deal with these by dodging the ghosts, throwing the same coloured powder on the blobs, and soaking the thieves with a bucket of water.
As stated above, Potion Party has a surprising amount of customisation built into it, making progression within later missions easier should you invest in certain items. You can buy and upgrade a number of items within your workshop, items such as more tables, distillers, plant pots, furnaces, and bleachers. This reminded me of the Diner Dash and Welcome to Primrose Lake games, buying and upgrading the tools you use in order to complete the task at hand more efficiently.
You can also buy specific boosts and traits, such as reducing the number of slimes, ghosts, and thieves which appear, making your plants grow faster, and the most expensive one tells you what colour potion the next person wants, so you can start brewing it before they even appear! Before you know it, you will have invested all of your profits into these items as it’ll be impossible to pass the later levels if you don’t.
The final set of progression is one which I totally overlooked until this morning – your character. There are ten additional characters to ‘buy’ within the game, using your hard-earned money, each one offering a unique advantage. For example, the cheaper ones add an extra coin to each sale, makes grinding faster, allows you to move quicker, or forces your plants to take less time to grow. However, the more expensive ones enable unlimited use of the water bucket (without refilling it all the time), makes you immune to the ghosts and blobs, and the magician lets you make big potions with one set of ingredients instead of two!
Each character can also be upgraded to further enhance their ability, making the choice of skin you decide to wear much more than a “who looks the coolest” opinion.
Potion Party can be played in competitive 1v1 and 2v2 multiplayer or with up to four players in co-operative mode. The co-op is basically the twelve chapters you can play on your own, only with up to four of you running around and making the potions. It can get quite frantic but it’s much easier than playing on your own as you can easily co-ordinate each other to specific roles to make it more efficient. However, I’ve played it solo for the majority of the time and I’ve only had issues in the second to last mission due to the stupidly short time limit – I’ll have to upgrade a few things before I’ll pass that one!
In terms of the multiplayer mode, the screen is split into two and both teams go head-to-head. Again, this is local only, the game has no online functionality as it’s all couch-based.
However, both Steam and the PS4/5 supports Share Play. On Steam, you can activate Remote Play Together and people who aren’t in your house and remote in and play as if they’re sat with you. Similarly, if you have a PS Plus subscription, and I think your friend has to have it too, they can remote into your PS4 or PS5 from their console and play along (for up to an hour before you have to reset the connection). So, even though the game doesn’t technically have online capabilities, you can still remotely play with your friends and family if you want, which is great considering the current lockdown regulations.
I really enjoyed playing Potion Party, the gameplay starts off nice and simple, but it soon becomes quite manic and a little overwhelming – but never ‘too’ overwhelming. I like the pace at which the game increases its difficulty, with each mission adding a new tool, enemy, or step-up in the overall difficulty. I also liked how fair it was with the timers and monetary goals, I only felt like it was a little unfair in one stage and that’s only because it clearly wants me to unlock some more upgrades and keep trying – which I will.
The game is also very generous with the trophies, none of which seem to require you to complete all twelve mission (if you get stuck), you just need to buy everything and make a lot of potions. The store page says that there’s an unlockable endless mode once you’ve completed all of the missions – I’ve not completed them all yet, but I imagine this mode should make the small grind post-completion much easier and more fun. The only downside, in relation to the trophies, is that there isn’t a platinum (if that’s important for you).
In terms of the technical side of the game – I love the aesthetics. Potion Party has a very cute pixel-art look about it with each character looking very unique and distinct. The little blobs remind me of the Puni from the Atelier series, it’s just a shame there’s no barrel for me to shout at… The music is a loop of a ‘ye olde inn’ style music, a really fitting composition that matches the gameplay perfectly. I played the game on my PS5 and had no issues with anything, it ran perfectly.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly casual local co-op game to play with friends or family, Potion Party should be high on your list of candidates. It’s very addictive and rewarding, making money to spend on upgrades that allow you to obtain more money in return, gradually expanding and making the process more efficient. You can play the entire mini-campaign on your own or with others locally (or via Share Play), or face them competitively and see who’s the most agile alchemist.
- - Addictive and entertaining game whether playing on your own or with others
- - Cute visuals and relaxing music
- - Gets challenging at the right pace, never feeling like it got too hard too quick
- - The progression makes you want to go back for more so you can keep buying upgrades and new characters
- - You can unlock an endless mode
- - Only one person at a time comes to your store, meaning it's not as challenging as similar games
- - The second to last mission seems impossible (but I may just need more upgrades or a partner)
- - No platinum trophy