Some of my favourite co-op games ever, are the Overcooked!-titles. These are two hectic games about running different forms of restaurants, which I have completed with my sister and even done so all over again with the All You Can Eat edition. As one who has worked in the service business for quite some time, I hold these games near and dear to my heart for being fulfilling and entertaining adaptations of the real deal. While on Twitter one day, I was recommended Potion Party that was supposed to be very similar. Replace the chefs and different foods with alchemists and magical potions, and this project sounded very intriguing.
A quick brew
As a stressful resource management game, Potion Party has you set in one location where you make mystical potions for your costumers. You do this by watering your plants to grow, grind what you harvest into dust, and use it and some water on an alchemical device in order to make the desired brew. This only requires a couple of steps and you have no more than three types of plants to choose between; yellow, red, and blue. However, while the procedure is comprehensible, this title is fantastic at introducing you to new obstacles and elements to take into consideration in every step of the way.
Obstacles like rogues that steals and slimes that slow you down will have to be taken care of, with rogues disappearing if they get water on them and slimes dissolving from the same coloured potion or powder. Furthermore, costumers will require new elements, such as purple liquids or a bigger portion of a brew. These small additions presented throughout each stage provide more tension to the game, yet you are never thrown into something you should not already be able to handle. This comes from how you are taught about every new element with clear descriptions before starting a new level, which is simply wonderful.
You will also have to be mindful of what to make and when, due to the customers having a time limit on how long they are willing to wait for the potion they want. Luckily, the game is easy to control with a small marker in front of your avatar showcasing what you interact with or where you put down your held item. In other words, if you drop and destroy vials or powder on the ground, it is all on you. You can also combine dust or liquids to make new colours, which is a nice touch that adds to the gameplay. Just remember that combining all three colours makes a grey substance that no one wants.
This title is broken up into 12 stages, each using the same store, but requires you to handle more obstacles the higher the level’s number is. Each stage has a required amount of income to achieve within a time limit in order to beat it and move on to the next level, but you can also replay a stage in order to get more money, which can be spent on upgrading your shop. These include new characters with varied enhanced stats, and equipment to your shop that are either practical ones like more benches and better watering cans or passive ones like decorations that makes you gain more money from sales.
Although, I do question this design-choice. While I do like the idea of being able to upgrade my shop with a solid difficulty curve complementing this setup, it also makes it too easy to grind up more money to buy more equipment. Because of this, I wonder if the stage layout should have been removed for a more roguelike structure when you are in the same shop throughout the entire campaign. At least, everything is priced accordingly and you can never become overpowered, since you will still have to plan every potion you make and run around in your shop. None of the upgrades are too helpful either, which keeps up the engaging gameplay.
Unfortunately, with only 12 stages that take about two hours to get through, Potion Party is short and ends before it becomes a fulfilling experience. It is easy to get to grips with and always entertaining thanks to the variety it offers, but it was not until the last two stages that I felt challenged and ready for more to come. With the possibility for up to four players co-op and the game being scaled accordingly to still provide a good difficulty curve, this title will definitely offer a fun afternoon. Just not much more than that.
Gameplay Score: 7/10
Colours can only do so much
There is a limited amount of things to talk about with this game’s presentation. You got simple character designs, traditional enemies like ghosts and thieves, and a store that is quite barren even when decorated. Everything is presented with strong colours, but the creativity is minimal and the lack of variety in looks and customisation options, make this title lack any imagination. Which is strange to say for a game featuring alchemists and magic. At the very least, the animations for the characters could have been more than just two frames.
Thankfully, the sound effects are solid with a nice variety to signify what occurs on the screen, like vials being placed around, berries being fully grown or rogues appearing with sly laughter. The soundtrack is also neat by consisting of few, but good tunes that come with nice highlighted notes to them. It is surprising how catchy the stage theme is, as you will be mainly listening to it throughout the game and it does not become tiresome due to the lighthearted composition, despite its rhythm being repetitive. While the audio is also limited, it is definitely more diverse and helps the underwhelming visuals.
Presentation Score: 5/10
After you have finished the main game, you can still upgrade your shop further, which is easy to do through the unlockable endless mode. This is as straightforward as it sounds, but it is truly engaging to see how far you can go with a shop where everything is maxed out, especially with friends tagging along for the ride. There is even a great versus mode, where up to two versus two can compete in selling most potions. Both modes are fun to tackle, and while there might not be a lot else to do after the 12 stages are over, these extras are addictive on their own and can easily lead you with the mentality of “just one more round”.
Extra Score: 8/10
While I cannot call this a party, this title still offers an entertaining playthrough that simply could use a bit more content. The extra modes make sure that there are things to come back to, but the presentation can make this project forgettable and the main game ends before it gets going. If you have friends to play with or like the idea of seeing how far you can go with a single shop, Potion Party is a decent choice. The groundwork here is great, but there is little else to praise this title for. Hopefully, it will do well enough for a sequel to be produced.