Potata: fairy flower feels very much like a game of yesteryear, often at times feeling like I was playing a 2008-styled Xbox Live indie title. This can range from a genre-defining hit to a cheap imitation of better titles, but unfortunately Potata tends to feel like the latter.
It opens up fairly simply. You play as Potata, a fiery-haired young witch living in the Fairy Forest. Your young wolf is sick and your mum is looking for ingredients. You need some leaves for medicine and some berries for a pie. This is, for the most part, how the story is set up. It isn’t complex, but doesn’t need to be for a puzzle platformer. It mostly wants to look pretty and provide engaging gameplay, yet it only does this to varying degrees. Naturally, talking to Potata’s mother brings one to the dialogue, something that surprised me in a way that’s initially quite likeable. You have choices of what to say and these get you unique responses, similar to an RPG dialogue system but far more simplified. It even gives stage directions to certain choices such as “In an annoyed tone”, or it adds a wink after a sentence to imply a certain cheekiness.
This adds a certain charm to an otherwise fairly boring preamble. Unfortunately, the dialogue has noticeable mistakes and very few characters have any real personality. It squanders the charm imbued by a dialogue system by making it feel exhausting and tedious to make your way through. After this is completed you are welcomed to both the forest itself and the gameplay structure. In the forest, there’s a farmer, a mechanic, a “shady” dark mage and a few other characters you won’t discover for some time. After finding out a little about them via their dialogue, you are sent on your first level.
Levels in Potata are simplistic but more structured and interesting than they initially seem. There is rarely an A to B run, opting instead to go below and above the initial platform. You start off with nothing but a jump button and your wits, if you would call them that. You must avoid enemies and jump over platforms to get a general scope of the level. A crucial part of finishing stages is the puzzle aspect so you are best off getting a general idea of where everything is before jumping wildly. This is one of the best things about Potata. Its level design does have some great moments. So too do its puzzles. Nothing is too complex or hard but they are generally quite satisfying. It’s clever too, and one puzzle found very early on is used later to different effects. In it, you are given a design to match, lighting up a certain amount of squares. When you click on a square, those adjacent to it flip from on to off or off to on. You must plan out the field so only specific colours are on. This isn’t a unique idea on Potata’s behalf, but it works well.
Not every puzzle and level design works this well, unfortunately. Many puzzles just involve following a simplistic design right in front of you and none of them feel unique to Potata. It is here where some of its issues lie. Potata feels like a game built from a love of 2000s platformers but offers nothing new in this regard. All the puzzles feel like something that would have been completed in games over a decade ago. The same goes for the level design. It isn’t bad by any stretch but feels painfully formulaic for the majority of playtime. Oftentimes, the general atmosphere of the level clashes with its own choices. There are cliches of the genre often thrown into levels where they don’t quite fit. The gameplay itself is relatively decent but its animations are often very rigid and awkward, occasionally feeling like a mobile title. And then the land behind you and your character model often feel at ends, with clipping through environments and repetitive animations.
The same can be said for the art style. The cover and background art are occasionally lovely but this clashes hard with some particularly ugly character models and platforms. Going from one to the other feels like clicking on a 4K YouTube video only to have it load in 480p. And then the music is also inconsistent in quality; most of it being fairly menial background noise where some of it is downright annoying. The second level, on the other hand, features lovely quiet piano and pizzicato strings, and I could easily see myself listening to this track by itself.
There are also levels of complexity added as you go through Potata: fairy flower that I quite enjoyed. New mechanics are brought into the platforming elements, such as the inclusion of a sword and bomb-like objects you can throw. These add new ways of looking at levels, almost in the way a Metroidvania does. This isn’t the only place Potata draws from other genres though and it has an inventory system that occasionally feels like an old school point and click adventure.
Going from level to level collecting pieces to use on earlier puzzles is great, but ultimately not well thought out. There is little logic to most of the item combinations in the early game, resulting in you randomly trying items till they work. That being said, one could see this as a homage to the tedious levels of repetition in the old Monkey Island titles. This worked back then as the writing was sharp and the wacky tone fitted the even wackier solution, however it does not work here.
Potata: fairy flower on Xbox One has some major issues, and most of these just come down to its design. It has interesting ideas but practically none of them are very original. Its art style is a let-down in contrast to the promotional material and very little thought has been put into the overall consistency of the world. Yes it functions reasonably well as a platformer, but doesn’t offer anything you can’t find better elsewhere.