Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Magic Potion Destroyer Review

Platform: PC / Steam
Developer: Artifacts
Publisher: AGM Playism
Price: $9.99

Magic Potion Destroyer comes to us from Artifacts, the Doujin circle of Isuki Hikari, who also writes comics and visual novels. I found the game to be a unique experience. Like many of the Indie Japanese games I review for this blog, the story is told in an interesting and unique way.

The game is described as a “strategic escape game,” which is very fitting. It begins with the main character, Claudia, waking up on the floor of a cell in a witch's mansion. She doesn’t remember much, other than that she needs to escape and, in the process, regain her memories. The way in which her memories are revealed is the mechanic that propels the game forward and effectively marries narrative and game play.

You start each level near the bottom of the environment, facing a glowing portal. Enemies appear from the portal and Claudia automatically attacks the creatures, which become more powerful the more waves you defeat. The player’s job is to make sure Claudia’s power keeps up or surpasses the enemy's powers, and this is done in a couple of different ways.

As time passes outside of battles, Claudia accrues MP, filling the meter at the bottom of the screen. The MP is used to boost Claudia’s stats, such as increased maximum HP, higher attack power and increased frequency of attacks. You can also increased the amount of HP that is recovered after each battle. The ultimate goal, however, is to increase your maximum MP enough to progress to the next level. Once you level up the MP meter enough, Claudia will be able to release all the stored MP and destroy the portal and progress forward. Unfortunately, doing that also reduces all of your stats back to zero. While, most of the game is spent managing Claudia's stats, the game’s true staple feature are the potions.

Claudia can drink a mix of potions before starting a level to give her stats a preliminary boost before enemies begin pouring from the portal. Since the levels increase in difficulty, using potions at the start of a stage is absolutely essential to your success. Each new potion type also reveals a new memory. The potions are featured on a grid, and are unlocked as you progress to higher levels, but some potions are only unlocked by meeting certain requirements. For example, one potion is unlocked when Claudia’s maximum HP reaches 5,000,000.

You can even choose several potions that have the same effect, to have the effects stack. However, each potion has a dose cost, and you have a limited amount of doses. To determine which states need a boost is really decided by your play style. Sometimes it’s useful to boost your power level as high as possible to deal with the powerful enemies right away, but you may also need  to start out with higher HP, or more HP recovery. The entire process is a balancing act that gets more interesting as time goes on. The potion’s dose cost is increased by the amount of waves you endure during the levels. Ideally, it might be worth it to fight as many waves as possible and increase your stats enough to meet all the potion conditions. However, the longer you stay in one level, the harder things can get.

In the bottom left corner of the screen are two fortune cards. The cards create different effects like having Claudia’s HP increase every second, or having her maximum MP be 30% more at the start of the level. The longer the battles go on there is more of a chance of one of the fortune cards being flipped upside down, and their effect being reversed. It gets pretty risky the longer you stay in the level. While most of the game is spent clicking and waiting, the details and characters are varied and interesting enough to look at.

The entire game employs the retro aesthetic usual and sound track. What is most interesting are the types of enemies that appear through the portal. Baddies range from pools of sludge, mutated people, to evil trees and mushrooms. All of the visuals are charming and fit well with the theme. What works with the game is how all the pieces fit together to create a unique project. The narrative serves the game play and vice versa. Not only do the potions make it easier for Claudia to progress through the game, it also unlocks the mystery surrounding the mansion and her reason for being there. This game has multiple endings and new upgrades that can be unlocked when you get different potions. There are also several difficulty levels, which gives Magic Potion Destroyer a lot of replay value.The biggest flaw of the game, unfortunately is also what makes it unique and interesting.

Magic Potion Destroyer is a RPG combined with a clicker game, which means its pretty inactive. Most of the action happens at the start of the level, while you’re still trying to manage your stats, but eventually your HP and recovery will become high enough to where you won’t have to worry too much about dying. At that point, you're only watching meters fill up. During the first half of the game, the music is very light and minimal, so most of what you’ll be hearing are battle noises. For certain stretches it can be tedious, as you wait for the MP meter fill up enough to get another upgrade.

Overall, the game is definitely worth playing for the unique experience. The graphics are retro and charming and the music is dark and ominous, which creates a fitting mood. Most of the time, the atmosphere can completely immerse you. The flavor texts attached to the potions tells a interesting, dark story about Claudia and a Witch.  However, the game can feel inactive when you’re just watching meters fill up. Magic Potion Destroyer is a good study on how to intertwine narrative and game play by making exploring the story an integral and essential part of building your character; it is definitely worth your time if you’re a fan of unique Doujin experiences.

+ Interesting character building game.
+ Perfectly combines narrative and game play.
+ Polished graphics and fitting, moody music.

- Can become tedious at times, just watching meters fill up.


1 comment:

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