Anytime someone I know starts game that has blacksmithing referenced, they are bound to ask me about what I think about how it is portrayed. Some of the results are hilarious, some are accurate, and some are completely far off the mark (but still make a good game).
Disclosure: This review was written using a press copy of the game.
It was a bit of a no-brainer that I’d get around to Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! at some point. Thankfully, that time is now.
Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop!? (I’m just going to call it “Holy Potatoes” from now on) involves you running a blacksmithing shop that you inherit from your grandfather and his shady partner, Agent 46 (who owns 99.9% of the shop).
The gameplay pitched involves managing your potatoes to make the best weapons possible to sell to adventurers who level up, spread the word about your weapons, and eventually lead to your shop becoming famous enough to rival that of your late Grandfather, Batata.
==What You Get==
You get the above, with a bit of a twist. The game is essentially a management sim; you assign your employees to specific tasks relating to their strengths, train them to become better at their jobs (and unlock more jobs in the job tree), perform research into new weapons, craft weapons (each with stats based on your smiths), and overall try to expand your little weapon-creating empire.
You get some jokes and some cameo appearances (the first being Claude Strife) tossed in as you explore the world to find everything you need to make the best weapons possible.
Right out of the gate, Holy Potatoes is a user-friendly game. The tutorial is nice and slow, and covers everything you need to know about the game. As you unlock more things, like research or new world map options, it includes lessons to aid you along the way. It was a rare time I was confused while playing this game.
The game is also relatively forgiving, almost to the point in which is promotes making mistakes. I’ve made a few weapons accidentally, but I could still find someone to buy them (albeit at a lower cost than I’d like) or simply horde them until I found the right person. I’m still not sure if you can “lose,” outside of failing a contract, but it looks like it’d be pretty hard to do so.
“Light-hearted” doesn’t seem to fit this title. Those words just don’t relate how light and not-serious the game really is. The dialogue, from character interactions to news reports of things happening in the world (including meteors striking your shop), are all tongue in cheek and try to instill the idea of comedy throughout the game.
Once the game is moving, it is relatively simple. You just assign, watch the time, react to pop-ups, and move along. Like most management sims, you are timed, but unlike most management sims, I don’t think you really lose anything by not clicking fast enough (besides the extra moments of not having that character). I lost my sense of time while on the highest speed and realized that one of my guys was out selling for a day before I clicked on him to see who he found to sell to.
The game does add a few elements to keep you playing. As your characters work, they gain experience points, and when they max out their career, they can learn a second one, max it out, and potentially learn another career, all the way up a tree. This promotes playing around in one area for a while for the sole purpose of leveling people up.
There’s also the Golden Hammer awards, a yearly event that pits your best weapon forged that year against the best that NPCs have made. I haven’t had any luck with this yet, but I know once you meet those criteria, you can bribe judges to your side to attempt to win and gain more fame (which unlocks more things for you).
I have a few major gripes with the game, and for me, most of them are deal breakers.
The biggest one that is easy to notice: the game does NOT take itself seriously. From the lead character singing “Everything is Awesome” (from the LEGO movie) to the “spoilers” he knows about the legendary characters you meet, it feels everything was shoe-horned to be funny somehow.
Which leads to the next part: there’s not that much originality here. Everything I’ve run into is a spoof of some nature. When I got my first three smiths, one was based off of Lara Croft, and another was based off of Hulk Hogan. The local village has a comic-con, Ben Franklin offers you a contract to make a kite, and you have American-Idol like judges for the yearly Golden Hammer awards. It feels like a product of it’s time: rehashing the world around it and hoping for a laugh.
Holy Potatoes also doesn’t offer much of a challenge. When Agent 46 came by to ask for his first cut, I already had it…and almost a hundred fold more. I had over ten times his second cut, and only had one month of “overspending” (stocked up on materials). The only challenge I’ve run into involves the contracts (time limits) and the Legendary Weapons (time limits and required stats). That’s about it, honestly. The game just becomes a redundant mediocre management sim with spurts of canned comedy at that point.
Overall, I’m giving Holy Potatoes a middling 2.5 Buns, and I believe that’s being generous.
I really wanted to like this game going into it, but after the 6 hours I’ve sunk in tinkering with it, I’m not sure if I’ll continue. I enjoy management-like sims (like Painter’s Guild, The Sims, etc), but a good management sim needs more than what this group of potatoes is offering.
I felt the game fell flat with the overemphasis on jokes and cameos and not enough attention to the gameplay itself. At times, the game felt it was banking on the nostalgia of the music and the blatantly obvious references to interject humor into an otherwise lifeless game.
Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! is available on Steam for $14.99 with one DLC. There is a sequel of sorts, Holy Potatoes! We’re In Space?! coming out at some point in the future, which seems to mix elements of this and roguelike games. We’ll have to wait and see how that compares in the future.