Potion Permit is a cosy, magical experience that blends the best features of the RPG, adventure, and life sim genres into one soothing, medicinal brew. With plenty of puzzles to solve, potions to distil, and patients to heal, your time in Moonbury is as eventful and exciting as it is stunning.
We’ve recently seen a barrage of cosy and wholesome games coming to Switch, offering a variety of imaginative ways to unwind, whether you’re helping a bear run a B&B, or entering sentient vegetables into dance battles. While I’m more than happy to embrace the constant flow of chill vibes and farming sims currently on offer, the high saturation of the genre makes it pretty tricky for any one title to stand out. Luckily, Potion Permit most certainly stands out – and for all the best reasons.
This adorable little gem finds the perfect balance between classic, open-ended pixel RPG, adventure game, and life sim, with a dash of puzzle-solving to taste. You take on the role of a chemist under the Medical Association, sent to a place called Moonbury at the request of its mayor, Myer. His daughter is sick, you see, and having exhausted all of his options, he turns to the capital for help, despite Moonbury’s deep-rooted issues with chemists following a catastrophic event in the past. After you cure the girl’s ailment, the mayor requests that you stick around to act as Moonbury’s new resident chemist, and from here, your new life begins.
Despite its cute exterior, Potion Permit carries a surprisingly poignant message about discrimination, generalisation, and fear of change. Similar to the real-life treatment of medicine people and ‘witches’ in the early modern era, the townspeople are initially disapproving and sometimes outright hostile towards you, yet still turn to you in their hour of need.
However, as you progress through the story, you begin to earn their trust and change their perspectives, opening their eyes to their own prejudice and helping them overcome the scars of their past. As Mayor Myer says, ‘maybe we shouldn’t write off a whole group because of just one person’.
The core gameplay of Potion Permit is predominantly split into two main parts – adventuring, and tending to your patients. The adventure elements see you explore Moonbury’s surrounding areas, fight off beasties, and farm the materials you need for potions and upgrades. You have three different tools (an axe, a sickle, and a hammer), which you can switch between freely depending on what material you’re gathering, and you can also use these tools to fight off enemies when needed.
Then there’s the part focused on tending to your patients. When a Moonbury resident falls ill, your first task is to examine them and identify their illness through a diagnosis. You do this by inspecting the body part that’s causing the patient discomfort, which launches you into a short rhythm mini-game. How good you do in this dictates how high the patient’s satisfaction level is.
Once you’ve diagnosed your patient, you get to my favourite part – brewing the potions. Unlike most games where crafting, cooking, and potion brewing involves little more than gathering a specific set of materials and slapping them together, Potion Permit has you brew your concoctions through puzzle solving.
Each potion recipe has a different puzzle shape that you need to fill in, with the ingredients acting as puzzle pieces. From here, it’s all about flicking through your inventory, slotting the different ingredients-turned-puzzle-pieces together to complete the puzzle. Each potion has a cap on how many ingredients you can use, and some even have restrictions on what ingredient types you can incorporate (fire, water, earth, etc).
With no ‘right way’ to fill them in, these challenges allow you to really put your Tetris skills to the test in pursuit of finding the most affordable solutions. I honestly love this mechanic, and see it as a welcome and refreshing change to the tried and tested crafting systems we’ve come to expect.
Your reputation among the townsfolk dictates what privileges you get. If you hurt one of them, they all get mad, damaging your reputation and resulting in you getting a pretty frosty reception, regardless of whether you’re asking for assistance or merely saying hi.
On the other hand, keeping your patient satisfaction rates high and successfully curing your patients increases your reputation, which opens up new locations and allows you to upgrade the town and the surrounding areas. Plus, despite first impressions, Moonbury is actually populated by a lot of interesting characters, and building your relationships with them is certainly a rewarding endeavour. You might even find love if that’s what you’re looking for.
On top of developing the town and facilities like the clinic, you also have your own potion house, which you can fix up and decorate to suit your personal tastes. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s nice to have a cosy place to return to at the end of the day.
Potion Permit’s gorgeous, pixelated visual style is truly a thing of beauty. Every last square is packed with exquisite detail and oozing with charm, and every sprite has a sense of vibrancy and life, from your trusty canine companion to the butterflies fluttering around the woods. The UI is equally as masterful, offering all the information you need in a clear and concise manner without cluttering your screen.
When it comes to controls, Potion Permit is tailored perfectly to the Switch. Everything feels highly responsive, natural, and intuitive. Whether you’re switching between tools, dodge-rolling away from enemies, or flicking through your journal, it all feels comfortable and easy to access in both docked and handheld mode, and I never felt like I was being swamped in too many controls or mechanics to keep up. The Switch performance is equally as impressive, running as smooth as butter even as you run between different areas.
Honestly, I’ve fallen head over heels for Potion Permit, and couldn’t think of a better platform to play it on other than Nintendo Switch. It’s a cosy, magical experience that combines some of the best features from a variety of genres while mixing in its own unique mechanics to keep things fresh.
Its world is enchanting, its narrative intriguing, and its gameplay engaging. Honestly, what more could you want? I look forward to curling up in a baggy sweatshirt in the coming cool autumn nights, a cup of tea in hand as I continue to heal the people of Moonbury – and perhaps heal a part of myself in the process.