There is a popular saying: “Curiosity killed the cat”. In normal doses, curiosity is a common and harmless emotion for people to display, but an excess of it can be dangerous. In other words, being too curious can sometimes lead to catastrophe. Potata: Fairy Flower tells the story of a girl whose curiosity gets her into a spot of trouble.
The protagonist of Potata is named, as one might guess, Potata. She is a young girl who lives in the forest with her mother and various other mages in a village. Potata is known throughout the village as a bit of a troublemaker and is bullied by her peers as being not very adept at her studies. She’s unable to use even the most simple of spells that her classmates can perform with ease.
One day while looking for berries for her mother, she happens upon a beautiful flower and a fairy. Taken with its beauty, she picks the flower, sending the forest into chaos. Bramble and vines fill the forest, as monstrous creatures also start to appear. The fairy, in anger, demands Potata find the petals of the flower that have been scattered all throughout the forest so that she can put the flower back together, and with it the forest’s calm ambiance.
Much of Potata entails platforming through vines and ledges collecting pebbles and various items that can be used to get further through the map. Pebbles are the currency of Potata and can be used to buy puzzle hints, progress past roadblocks in levels, and buy health upgrades and dewberries from the Dark Mage resident in town. Dewberries can be given to Potata’s mom to make a pie, though collecting all of them can be laborious and seems to have no actual benefit. The pie is bigger if you bring her more berries, but the pie itself is only talked about and has no apparent purpose.
Any tasks you are given are kept track of in your quest menu. Here you can easily see what still needs to be done. As there are no side quests in Potata, and gameplay is fairly straightforward, players may not need to consult this menu very often. There are also notes you can find throughout the game. These are correspondence you can read that were written by the game’s secondary characters. They are fun to read, as they provide a bit of insight into the relationships they have with each other, as well as providing an insight into how they perceive Potata.
There are numerous regions to traverse that each contains a petal of the fairy flower. These areas are accessed from the main town and are available in a set order. Once they are completed, they cannot be revisited, making it important to collect as many pebbles as you can while completing each region. Many common elements found in other platformers are present here, such as dangerous vines and moving platform sections. The instructions given in the early game on how to play are mostly clear, but suffer a bit because of an imperfect English translation. You can get the gist of things as they’re explained to you, but some might find the odd grammar and word choice a bit jarring.
Each region map consists of various dangers, such as small spikes, that can hurt you or, in the case of water or big red spikes, can kill you. Enemies will also make frequent appearances. These include spiders and piranha. At the end of each map, there will be some kind of test for you to complete that will net you a petal. Sometimes it is a boss, and other times it might be a puzzle or timed platforming element. The variety is certainly welcome, as always having a boss at the end of every level is a bit overplayed in games, but it would have been better if these elements were peppered throughout the levels, as there are only a few regions in the game. In most cases, these welcome alternatives to the constant boss fights you see in other games only appear once throughout the entirety of Potata.
In addition to the regions, players visit as part of their journey to collect the fairy flower petals, there is also a section of the town where one can find numerous portal gates to optional levels. This is the Challenges section, and starts opening its portals once the player has completed most of the regions. These levels are not required to beat the game, but players should be advised that in order to get the best ending (of which there is 3 total) beating all of these levels is necessary. Even though they are called “challenges”, these levels are actually quite similar to the main regions as far as the difficulty in completing them.
Saving Potata is done via large altars, several of which are found in each level (except challenge levels). Passing by an altar will automatically save your game, as well as heal all of your health. This is a common method seen in other games as well, except in this case you need to pay a small number of pebbles in order to save with that statue again. This brings about all kinds of misery for those that are thrifty with their pebbles. Save altars aren’t always as plentiful as one might wish, so entire platforming sections will have to be redone and pebbles collected again should players forego spending pebbles to save multiple times. This is more than a bit annoying, as the collision detection while jumping through thorns or other obstacles isn’t the best. Some definite frustration can occur due to this questionable game mechanic.
In each region that you adventure through, you will encounter at least one puzzle. There are only a few types of puzzles found in Potata, with many of them being light puzzles. In these types of puzzles, one must press squares on a screen to light up the squares around it, with the goal being to light all of the squares with dots. The aggravating element to this is that all squares without dots must not be red to complete the puzzle, which they change color to if a square by them is pressed. Much of the time solving these puzzles is pressing and re-pressing buttons trying to both light the dots and get rid of red squares you create in the process. This can be a real test of patience unless you are capable of visualizing many steps ahead. Players encounter this kind of puzzle early on and will immediately know if it’s something that will be easy for them.
An interesting element to these light puzzles comes in the form of Luna. She is a classmate of Potata who stands by every light puzzle offering a hint. This comes in the form of highlighting what squares you need to press to complete the puzzle perfectly. Unfortunately, Luna is a bit of a pain and will not only heckle you for asking her for help, but will charge you pebbles for the hint. This price skyrockets into the hundreds the further into the game you are, which just so happens to be when especially hard light puzzles appear. Luna also appears at other points in the game to block your progress unless you pay her pebbles. Players will find that Luna is quite a bully.
Thankfully, there are a few other types of puzzles players will see that will not be quite as hard, such as rotating block puzzles (like those seen while hacking in the Bioshock games, for example) and tangram puzzles, where you fit Tetris-like blocks into a shape using all blocks perfectly. These tend to be much easier to solve. Unfortunately, they do not appear as often as light puzzles. In fact, there are only two sliding block puzzles in the game. This is a shame, as these are much more enjoyable to complete and are not nearly as discouraging to retry should you make a wrong move.
The musical tracks in Potata all have a Celtic sound to them. They feel a bit mysterious and fit the theme of the forest setting quite well. The music changes in each region, but this genre of music permeates all of the music you will encounter. Other games might have vastly different levels that require complete shifts in music style to accompany them, but the persistence in musical theme works in Potata. All of the regions share the same mysterious fantasy quality, so their musical tracks never seem out of place.
If you enjoy platformers, Potata: Fairy Flower is decent enough. At the same time, it doesn’t have much to differentiate itself from any other platformer that has come before it. The story is sufficient, but doesn’t have a ton of depth and uniqueness. What’s more, there are little players can do once they complete the game outside of completing the simple challenge levels to get a better ending. Which is a shame considering players can complete this game in a day quite comfortably. In addition, the frequently awkward translation brings players out of the story more than they may like. Potata has definite charm in its setting and art style, but the other elements making up the game do little in elevating it to something special.
Final Score: 5 out of 10.