This title is exclusive to PC on Steam and was reviewed as such.
Platforming games are one of the most popular genres of gaming, there’s no denying that. Thanks to the sheer amount of memorable titles in the genre, heralded by the likes of Sonic, Mario, and Rayman, there’s no doubt that the genre contains some of the greats. With how many platformers that have came out in the decades since Super Mario Bros popularised the genre, it takes a lot to stand out. Thankfully, I think I have in my hands a humble yet fantastic platformer in the form of Potata. Weird name aside, how does this platformer stack up?
Right away, the visuals are absolutely phenomenal. Potata has a hand-drawn, 2D look, and the colorful forest aesthetic coupled with the massive amount of detail just screams Rayman on the PS1. Cute animations from the game’s characters add more life to the platforming, and later levels have neat visual effects, such as foreground fog in the second stage that takes place in the night time.
The story here raised my expectations, and that ended up being a detriment towards it. Potata has a full opening cutscene, and there is plenty of dialogue between stages, so you’d expect the story to be detailed, but it sadly is very simple. You play as Potata, and after you accidentally cause a bit of havoc and annoy a fairy, you have to traverse the dangers of the forest to set things right. While platformers aren’t renowned for their detailed stories, with Mario not evolving from the whole ‘Bowser has the princess’ idea in decades, it would’ve been nice if the story itself matched its presentation,
Potata on the surface is your average platformer. You jump over and dodge obstacles and enemies in order to get from the left of the level to the right of the level. It’s a tried and tested formula that’s done quite well here. Potata handles quite well, with some nice-feeling physics and overall solid platforming, but the game has plenty of neat tricks up its sleeve. Like every platform game, there is a coin-equivalent scattered throughout the levels. These are not coins or rings or lums, but gemstones, and they are way more useful than their counterparts. Due to the lack of a lives system, collecting 100 doesn’t do anything, but the gemstones make up for it due to the variety of uses they have. Acting more like a currency, they can be used to buy hints for puzzles, and more importantly, allow you to save, as checkpoints have you pay a fee to save, a fee that increases the further into the game you go, so getting gemstones is critical.
These gemstones are often hidden in secret areas, which is a part of Potata‘s genius. While the main goal is simply go from left to right, Potata‘s level design is incredibly open. There are secret/alternate passages everywhere, leading to gemstones and other useful items. Some areas loop back around to the main path, while others are simply a more gemstone-rich path to the end of the stage. Either way, these passages help expand the gameplay greatly. Alongside platforming, there are the aforementioned puzzles, which are pretty decent, and never too difficult, even if you don’t use the hints you can get with gemstones. Another huge aspect is inventory management. In many of these alternate paths, you can find a variety of items. These items range from optional, such as keys for treasure chests, to the mandatory, such as planks to form bridges, or ‘dreamberries’ which knock out certain creatures that you can’t take out with normal methods. The combination of inventory management and alternate paths gives Potata a depth that completely surprised me, as on the surface it just seems like a simple platformer. Add on some solid boss fights and you’re all set.
There isn’t really much to say on the audio department. Sound effects are pretty decent, but not amazing. The music is pretty solid too, and while not mind blowing, i did find the different tunes quite relaxing during the quieter platforming, and they appropriately got more intense during certain difficult moments and boss fights.
Potata was certainly a pleasant surprise when I booted it up. Its visuals just scream Rayman, with the beautiful detail, forest aesthetic, and even the fireflies looking like lums. The gameplay seems like your bog-standard platformer at first, but the level design quickly opens up, with tons of alternate paths hiding items and the like. The different additions to the gameplay are also welcome, with the currency-style gemstones and their uses making them more satisfying to collect, as they’re necessary for saving the game and getting hints in the game’s pretty decent collection of puzzles. While the story isn’t anything special, it is largely a non-issue as platformers never usually have good stories, but the way this one is presented makes it seem better than it actually is. Despite that, if you’re a fan of platformers, you’ve gotta check this out.