[Review] Potata: Fairy Flower – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Potata Company, Sometimes You
  • Publisher: OverGamez
  • Release date: 06/06/2020
  • Price: £10.99 / $12.00
  • Review code provided by OverGamez

Introducing: Potata Fairy Flower Switch Review

Potata: Fairy Flower is something that excited me for two reasons. I love an animated art style in my plaformers, and I love getting to taste the first game to ever come out of a developer. It’s a thrill to think that you’re discovering something new like that. Despite Potata being available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, I had not played it yet, thanks to working on a Nintendo-focused website. When the chance came my way, though, I was quick to snap it up and get a closer look at this cutesy game.

Cast a Spell

Potata: Fairy is the story of the little witch Potata as she navigates the magical world that she lives in. It starts out with her needing to collects some ingredients so that her mother, a grown witch, can whip up a brew to heal Potata’s fox companion. Simple enough stuff, right? Well, I was a little thrown when, after playing for a little while, the story took a hard right and I was given a full cutscene of Potata picking a flower that a fairy was living inside. The petals of this flower are scattered to the wind and the main thrust of the story is really to collect all of them while taking on side journeys to help other characters along the way.

Now, I don’t mind that the story is a little different than I initially expected it to be, but the problem lies in the fact that I think the pacing of this beginning was very strange. The moment when Potata picks the flower is clearly set apart with its own images and light animation to draw attention to this being the key moment, but it comes after I had already done some exploring and there was already a conversation with Potata’s mother. The pacing here is just a little strange and left me feeling like I got two separate openings for the game, when in fact I just got the opening of a side quest before getting the main story intro.  That story intro does act as a good turning point for the start, though, as the whole forest turns against you after that point and there is a lot more danger clearly present.

The writing also felt a little strange to me. While what was at the bottom of the screen were clearly text boxes, some of them would have these sort of stage directions peppered in. For example, when Potata’s mother is telling her about what to fetch for the cure, it will have a mention that she is working hard to stir her pot in parenthesis. I was a little curious about this since it seemed like a cool stylistic choice and invoked a bit of a roleplaying element in the writing. Unfortunately, it was something that was rare to pop up so it seemed more out of place than a deliberate choice by the developers. Considering that this game is also available in Russian right off the bat, and I noticed some of the dialog was pretty stiff, I looked a little further into the developer, and did find a page where everything was entirely in Russian. I’m inclined to believe that a lot of the stiffness is due to a fairly literal translation.

Explore the Magical World

There are two parts to the gameplay that you are going to find in Potata. The first part is the platforming which was incredibly tight and satisfying while I was playing. I never felt that my character was sliding and the fact that the jump was tied to how long you hold the button allowed for a level of control that I was incredibly satisfied with. Platforming in indie games like this can sometimes be a little hit or miss, but in this case, I was very happy. The only downfall came in the combat, where I sometimes felt that my attack should have connected when it didn’t. A little longer of a reach on the sword that Potata acquires early in the game would have made up for this, though I really only engaged in combat during the very fun boss battles.

The other half of the game play of Potata are the puzzle elements that are sprinkled liberally throughout the game. This is where things started to fall down for me. There are a lot of puzzle elements that just are not explained and you are left to flounder until you figure out the way forward, or cave and search online for help. For example, early on there was a large biting plant that I had to get past. I tried jumping over when the head was low or running under when it lifted up, but nothing was working. It took me several minutes to realize that I had to feed it a berry that would make it fall asleep. Every other enemy to that point had been something to be evaded, not interacted with. So, it was a problem to break what had been the fundamental gameplay so far without any explanation. There were other cases where the way forward through item combination could be really obtuse, leaving me running back and forth all over the hub village as I tried to figure out what exactly I needed to do. 

There are also stationary puzzles that you have to solve at times in order to remove a wall that blocked the way forward. Honestly, these were puzzles that I liked a lot, but they were without explanation as well. While I, as a regular player of puzzle games, caught on right away since I was familiar with the puzzle structure, I could see how someone who is not used to them could struggle to figure out what to do. You can pay a NPC to show you the solution the first time you do one of these puzzles, but that still doesn’t  actually teach you how they function, leaving you floundering again the next time you run into one.

Gather the Ingredients

The art direction was perhaps my favorite part of this game. I’ve made no secret of the love that I have for game with a 2D animated or cartoon-like art style, and Potata is just another of the ones that I can add to the pile of great games with that sensibility coming out lately! There is, of course, only so much detail that you can put into a character sprite, so Potata provides us with images of the characters when we speak to them that are full of lush details and really sell them much more. I will say that the people of the village seem to all have a very similar color palette so some of the less important ones could blend together at times, but they were diverse in other ways that allowed me to understand a lot about the character with a glance to their image.

The sound design wasn’t anything that thilled me, though. It worked just fine for what it was doing, but there was never a moment that I considered myself to be entirely wowed. Still, music and sounds that don’t distract and support the game is always better than an option that irritates, so I was happy with what Potata gave me.

I was glad to see that each of the handful of levels that I would have to enter and explore was visually distinct which allowed them to be sold as different regions in the area, rather than just another level. I would have liked to see just a touch more variety in the enemies, but they were still all visually and functionally distinct enough to not feel like I was just doing the same thing over and over again.

Lost in the Woods

I didn’t have much trouble with the game at all, with everything running butter smooth in both docked and handheld modes, as it should as platforming games rely on not stuttering in order to avoid frustrating deaths. There are a few enemies that were very tiny when I was playing docked, leading to a few collisions, but it was never much of an issue. I ended up preferring to play in handheld for this reason, but I don’t think that I would have thought it to be unfair if I was playing docked, especially since this gives room for other people to help you out with the puzzles

Home Again, Home Again

Potata overall isn’t a very lengthy game, nor is it one that I would recommend for young children, despite the family friendly content and look of it. It’s one that I would recommend to the 2D Mario players who want their game littered with somewhat annoying and frustrating puzzles. Despite me having some deeper problems with this game, I am still looking forward to what will come next from this team.

Pros

  • Adorable and vibrant art
  • Tight platforming controls
  • Varied environments

Cons

  • Obtuse environmental puzzles
  • Lack of explanation in places that could have used it
  • Stilted dialog and odd writing choices

Verdict

A silky smooth and tight platforming game that is held back by puzzles that either lack explanation or are obtuse to the point of frustration.

3/5

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