By Drew D. / March 2nd, 2021
|Title||Potata: Fairy Flower|
|Release Date||December 17th, 2019 (PC)
May 12th, 2020 (PS4)
May 13th, 2020 (Xbox One)
June 06th, 2020 (Switch)
|Platform||PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Everyone|
The 2D platformer genre can be tough for developers as it’s one of the most time-honored styles in gaming. I believe, in order to stand out within this ever growing category of countless titles, creativity is an absolute. And so, I’m always impressed when a game is successful in altering the look and feel of the standard in new, imaginative ways. This is what first caught my attention regarding Potata: Fairy Flower, a game that possesses many of those traditions while attempting to distinguish itself through creativity, in both gameplay, as well as its attention-grabbing aesthetics. Also, since Steve, my manager here at oprainfall, gifted me this game for Christmas, I now had the perfect opportunity to finally try Potata out for myself.
Potata follows the story of our titular heroine, an energetic young witch-in-training, who much prefers going on adventures rather than school and studies. Her story begins unassumingly enough, in that her pet fox is ill and Potata’s mother has her collect ingredients for a remedy. From there, she’ll be asked to collect items and complete tasks for others, all the while solving puzzles and exploring the vast, picturesque forests she calls home. Each request seemingly leads to another, forming a series of events that lead Potata on a fantastic journey in which she meets odd and interesting individuals, unveils threats lurking too close to home, and experiences a bit of growth as she discovers a few things about herself along the way.
The story of Potata is a cute, stress-free tale, if a bit on the simplistic side. The quests themselves tell the story and although they can be completed with a bit of freedom of order, ultimately, the quests do stitch together a pleasant little adventure for us to enjoy. As for the story itself, as I said, it’s a bit on the simple side, in that while there is enough there to provide a plotline and move it forward, it only offers glimmers of depth. It’s serviceable for the genre, yet lacking in uniqueness, making it rather predictable. Perhaps the more egregious of flaws, however, is how the story is narrated. Many a time on this journey, you are met with big blocks of text, mostly in the forms of monologue or inner thought that could have been better spread out as dialogue and interaction, or portioned smaller throughout play. Coming to a screeching halt to read a text wall does nothing for play flow or narrative immersion. As for the writing itself, it is mostly acceptable, though another edit by a proofreader would have helped. I suppose this is more of a personal complaint of mine, as other players may not even take issue.
What saves the story and makes the narrative far less woeful is the character development Potata, herself, receives. Conversations, letters, reactions, and the like will color Potata as a character whose life has equal parts joy and distress. Some admire her energy, while others are quick to judge her and go so far as to offer insult, or put her down, simply for who she is. It makes Potata a far more relatable character than I expected and added a notable degree of immersion and care towards her and her story. This alone makes up for the narrative missteps and even makes Potata’s story one worth experiencing.
Leaving plot and narrative behind, Potata shines far brighter with its gameplay. This is a 2D platformer with additional puzzle solving and the occasional boss battle thrown in. The platforming is creatively implemented, making for a fun and imaginative experience that perfectly ties the nature-themed elements into the game’s progression. Riding on backwoods rigged elevators, hopping atop delicate flowers, and floating within bog bubbles will take Potata across the vivid landscapes of this magical world. Gameplay also makes use of the nature themes and clever level designs to hide the vast number of collectables needed to advance. Although there isn’t much in the way of true exploration, key items and those that can give you an advantage are all around you. And so, you will need to keep your eyes open to spot all of those hidden pockets and discover all of the hard to reach places sprinkled about to collect everything. It’s a notable addition, for the platforming itself can boil down to simply reaching one end of the map to another, so this touch of variety definitely helps. Lastly, the game offers an appreciable degree of challenge, only requiring a retry or two when truly stuck. I never found the experience to be overly drastic nor ever obnoxious in its difficulty, as I was always able to make my way through with a bit of patience and observation. Add to this the numerous save points, which are appropriately placed, and the lack of game overs, and you have a platforming experience that is nearly stress free and truly enjoyable.
As for the puzzle solving, again, the difficulty level is perfect, as I never found myself stuck to the point of frustration. They can be challenging, but trial and error will always lead to success. Also, many of the puzzles have the option to bypass them should you find yourself feeling especially stumped or impatient. My biggest gripe with them, though, is the lack of explanation. For example, there are several puzzles in which you must light up specific spots on a light board. If two lit spots overlap, they create a red square on the board. It took me a moment to figure out that you weren’t allowed to have any of these red spaces present, but I wish I had been told beforehand. Another issue I have is that the puzzles themselves are these stand-alone efforts and seem like they’re haphazardly wedged into the gameplay. For many of them, you have to come to a complete stop and solve them to progress, and so I feel they slow gameplay and interrupt flow. It’s nothing overtly offensive, but still noticeable. I would have preferred puzzles that incorporate the platforming a bit more to keep better play flow. The boss fights, in contrast, do a better job of maintaining play flow, as they are pure action. The boss fights are clever and will test your platforming skills, as well as your reflexes. They are each a pleasure, so much so that I actually found myself looking forward to them rather than feeling the typical angst of a boss encounter. Overall, gameplay is fun, imaginative, and immersive, and the few missteps are vastly overshadowed by its strengths.
Before moving on to aesthetics, I do wish to address the build quality of Potata, for although the overall PC version build is strong, I did run into some minor issues. First, I encountered stuttering and framerate drops. While not an often occurrence, they did happen, and sometimes at the most terrible of platforming moments. It’s nothing game breaking, just something to perhaps look out for if you’re playing on an older machine. Another issue, really more of an inconvenience, is the load times, in that they can be excessive, especially when entering the main village hub, as this map is huge, detailed, and filled with sprites. Last, due to the above issues, I would have liked the ability to further adjust the game’s graphic settings. The only option available is to adjust resolution. So, if the game runs slow for you, there’s unfortunately not much you can do. Yet other than those issues, I found the overall build to be acceptable. The game runs smoothly for the most part and its optimization is sound, which I’m always impressed with when Unity is involved. I also appreciate the customization options for the controls, regardless of whether you’re using a keyboard or controller. Having the option is always a plus, even though I found the default controls for Potata to be perfect as is. Overall, other than those issues that may arise from playing on an older or less powerful machine, build quality should provide a smooth experience for most.
Finally, the standout strength of Potata, and easily my favorite aspect of the game, is the absolutely brilliant aesthetics. Simply put, this game looks and sounds magnificent. I am in awe of the visuals, for the level of detail achieved to bring this world to life is incredible. I love the natural, yet jovial style; a picture book fantasy rich in a lush vividness, whether depicting quaint forests or grimy swamps. From the charismatic portrait art, to the impressive number of sprites, to the bustling backgrounds, all are brimming with stylish charm. It is beyond impressive, this level of detail that conveys this natural world teeming with life all around. The audio is equally impressive, utilizing both up-tempo tracks with slower ones to fit the visuals and mood of each area. There is a Celtic musical style often used that pairs perfectly with the rustic, nature-themed visuals. Yet, the sound score also branches from this, bringing an enjoyable touch of variation while ably maintaining the tones and themes of the game. In their entirety, the aesthetics pair perfectly and raise the overall experience that much higher. I could play Potata over and over again simply to enjoy the visuals and lose myself in its alluring sound score.
Potata is an imaginative little romp through an enchantingly rustic, verdant world. Although it falters in its story, as well as its ability to tell it, the gameplay is clever, fun and challenging, and possesses an absolutely remarkable aesthetic effort. The game will only take around five hours to complete, which left me wanting more, and the price point of around 9 USD may seem steep for what it offers. Having said that, Potata remains an easy recommendation, as it will no doubt please those looking for a solid platforming and puzzle solving experience, one that will most definitely captivate you with its overabundant charm.
Game copy received as a gift.
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