Now it's not usually in my nature to wish illness on anyone, but mumma needs some cash. My house is in desperate need of renovation, the clinic needs a facelift, and there's a road that needs reopening. There's a lot to do in Moonbury, but the beds in the clinic are empty and it's been some days since Ottmar rocked up with clammy forearms. It should be a good thing that no-one in Moonbury is sick, requiring medicines or care, but cash isn't the only motivator, it's also super fun to be a chemist in Potion Permit.
Unfortunately, it's going to take some time for people to start flocking to the clinic for every sniffle and cut knee. There's been talk of an "incident" in the town of Moonbury, involving a chemist that came before. So huge was this drama that it actually rendered much of the local flora and fauna extinct, so you can imagine that your presence as an out-of-towner chemist is less than welcome initially.
But what that means is there's work to be done - exactly the kind of busywork that has made games like Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing, and more recent titles like Disney Dreamlight Valley or Slime Rancher 2 so successful. You'll need to work to earn the trust of the residents of Moonbury, and it'll start with healing the Mayor's daughter.
Lotions and Potions
Your work as a chemist involves first listening to your patients' aches and pains and then investigating that area of their body with a quick mini-game to diagnose what treatment they need. You've only got a few days to do that though, so you may need to run out and grab some ingredients to make the appropriate cures. You can gather plants and flowers, defeat enemies, and collect other items in order to brew these potions back at your house, which in itself is a nice little puzzle to solve as you slot different ingredients' blocks into a set shape, Tetris-style.
Figuring out what ingredients you'll need to fit the right shape is sometimes a nice little head-scratcher too. Finding something that was an L shape pointing to the left was surprisingly difficult, for example, and constantly encourages you to push forward in the wilderness to find a different flower or enemy to defeat.
But while people grow to learn you're a chemist to trust, you'll have to do other things to make a living. I've got part-time jobs at the police station and post office right now, which again are simple enough mini-games like organizing jars of ink or packing parcels. Potions can be sold via a little postbox outside your house, and you can take on other errands from the bulletin boards too. There's so much to pack into a day in Potion Permit it's almost overwhelming, but actually, it just keeps you propelling forward. It's another game like Stardew Valley, yes, but without having to worry about harvests and seasons. You set your own agenda here, the only thing you really have to worry about is making sure to listen out for the ring of the clinic bell and ensuring you cure your patients before that timer ticks down. I've not let that happen yet, but I imagine it's not good.
As you level up friendships, you'll unlock other narrative threads too beyond the core story. It's impressively rich, and really elevates the gameplay to something more than just another life sim. The characters are interesting, well-written, and there's just enough backstory teased to make sure you're not drowning in text or logbooks. Chatting with people and giving them gifts (which you earn from healing people and ticking off bulletin board quests) is all you need to do, so it's another thing you can do while wandering around Moonbury.
Everything you do is contributing to how much the townspeople trust you and to improve the ranking of your Approval Badge - given to you and subsequently upgraded by the Mayor himself. It'll gain you access to different areas around the island the higher you get, and feels just as rewarding as getting a girl scout badge as a kid. The more you explore, the more you'll progress the game's story too, which is always a wonderful surprise.
Potion Permit has a lot to give. It's another Stardew-inspired adventure, but with a lot more narrative drivers, people to befriend, and a rather unique hook of medicine to give it that extra sparkle. Oh, and did I mention you're accompanied by a lovely dog too? Complete with its own wants, needs, friendship bar, and special abilities? Now, you must excuse me because the clinic bell is ringing again!
Potion Permit is out now on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch - and might be one of the best sim games yet