July 10, 2015 11:30 AM | John Bridgman
There are so many little stories that seldom get told. We spend so much time saving the world from the apocalypse of the week in RPGs that we overlook all those simple NPCs who keep our brave adventurers going. There have been attempts lately to make games out of these forgotten members of the role-playing universe, and they all seem to approach things in interesting ways. Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?!, launching today on Steam, is Daylight Studios' take on simulating the life and times of a weapon vendor. Its lighthearted and charming nature helps keep it going despite some minor irritations.
Holy Potatoes has you play the role of the grandchild of a famous weaponsmith, who has inherited the Weapon Shop after your grandfather's unfortunate passing. A well-dressed potato named Agent 46 advises you as you progress, as well as takes some of your hard earned-money, and you quickly set to work forging weapons and going off to other locales to sell the results of your hard work to the needy adventurers.
You do this through the management of your employed smiths, all of whom have different jobs and specialties in the forge. By assigning them to different stations, you can increase the Attack, Speed, Accuracy, and Magic ratings of the weapons you create and by selling them to the right class of adventurer, you can accumulate money and fame for your shop to expand your operation and create even more fantastic weapons. Your smiths also handle the buying and selling for you, as well as researching weapon designs and discovering new items to use in your forging.
The smiths have multiple experience levels for each role, and as they get more experience in their crafts, you can give them new job classes which will further allow them to perform various forging tasks. As they improve in multiple classes, you'll find it beneficial to juggle them around more and this keeps the game from getting too repetitive to be fun. The game play is a little samey like a lot of similar tycoon games, but there is still variety to be found and it manages to remain engaging for the most part.
The game is also really charming to look at. The potato people with their wavy limbs and bulbous bodies have an appeal to them, and a lot of effort has gone into detailing their expressions. Their emotive looks will probably put a smile on your face. Also the potato dog is absolutely adorable even with its simple design. The shop itself is colourful and uncluttered, though as you get upgraded there is a lot going on, you never are without the necessary information thanks to the well-designed UI. Also nice is the music, which has a lot of variety to it. Each season has its own track and it sets the mood very well for that season. The whole package comes together in an aesthetic that is pleasant, with a charm that really pulled me in.
I mentioned before there are some minor annoyances that may turn people away. The game thrives on references and they come really fast. Agent 46 is only the first such reference. Quickly you'll meet Laura Craft, Bulk Bogan, and so forth. They never really stop, with the player character breaking into song parodies of all sorts during conversations and it can get grating really fast if you don't like references. Luckily the game itself is fun and endearing, so it never reached that point for me.
Another minor nuisance is the in-game notification system, which seems to have minimal practical use. Notifications come in fast and frequent from your smiths, the weather, and the heroes in the towns throughout the world, and at first I checked them often, before honestly finding them not providing much relevant information. Once in a while you get told about something significant. It's a minor annoyance but it definitely isn't a deal breaker.
Being lighthearted in its presentation is definitely a strong point of the game. Even with the references the game is more than capable of making you smile with some of its silliness. As you play you get random events occurring, each with a couple choices which, while there is no way to be sure of the correct answer it seems, have some amusing resolutions to them as well as the bonuses or penalties that they result in. You'll also encounter legendary heroes whom you may recognize, and they'll give you special, unique orders to fill for you with strict requirements. It's an additional level of depth to the game that still plays in well to the game's sense of humour.
Holy Potatoes is at its root a very simple, but fun tycoon-style game. The gameplay is familiar to those who've played similar games, and people who enjoy them are certainly going to like this one just the same. The referential humour is not for everyone, but with its charming aesthetic and attention to detail there's enough to like that the things that annoy you won't get too frustrating.