It’s funny the things games bring to mind while playing them. The late ex-Liverpool FC captain Emlyn Hughes, so the rumours go, was given the nickname ‘Thrush’ by those in the famed Anfield Boot Room, because he was an irritating… well, insert your rude word of choice for lady parts here. After 10 minutes with Potata, the red-headed witch at the heart of this 2D platforming adventure, I’d constructed a reality where she was Emlyn’s daughter and was continuing her father’s nickname legacy.
My mind still wandering, I recalled the mightily quiffed film critic Mark Kermode’s idea that you get out of films what you bring to them. I’ll be upfront, with this game I wasn’t bringing a patience for simplistic, cutesy platforming, infrequent puzzles and cumbersome boss fights. Full disclosure: boss fights and me go together like Emlyn and his teammates.
Poor Potata was on a hiding to nothing before her quest could even begin. And what of her quest? From the outset she is tasked with finding ingredients to get a potion to fix her fox (not a euphemism), more ingredients to help her mother bake big pies (again, not a euphemism), while also assisting her fellow villagers that apparently have more patience for her carefree nonsense than I could initially muster.
Yet with a bit more time and a bit more patience the game, with its slightly sinister art style, reminiscent of a reality where Rayman Legends and over-drawn adverts for mobile games that bear absolutely no relation to the final product have had a baby and called it Fairy Flower, grew on me. Maybe it was Stockholm syndrome in digitised form, maybe the game actually has some enjoyment hidden up its cutesy sleeves.
Over the course of an afternoon, and the game shouldn’t take much longer to complete, the pleasantly chilled soundtrack and largely unchallenging but robust platforming became mildly diverting. The boss fights thankfully give way to gauntlet runs, themselves a spike in difficulty that is actually refreshing, and Potata’s quest, while not groundbreaking, veered on engaging.
That’s not to say there aren’t inconsistencies. There are errors in the game’s translations. While this doesn’t overly impede the light-hearted approach to the game’s text-based storytelling, it does speak of a lack of polish. This is further reflected in the sometimes frustrating guidance, or lack thereof. Thankfully the world created is small enough to make retracing steps not too annoying, but a little more care and attention could have ironed out this and other such kinks. Sometimes you can pay with the gems you collect during levels to bypass the game’s puzzles, but sometimes you can’t, which doesn’t feel like attentive game design.
Also, without getting too much into spoiler territory, the game also sort of just ends. There are some challenge levels that unlock, but I remain clueless about what I could have done with the excess of crystals earned from completing them. This, and the other inconsistencies, leave a nagging feeling of a beta game in alpha clothing.
Once Potata’s quest comes to a close and those challenge levels were completed, I recalled Kermode’s aforementioned assertion again. For the past few weeks of lockdown, with plenty of time to burn, I’ve been rattling through a variety of AAA titles that have been sitting on a shelf awaiting a rainy day, or the outbreak of a troubling global pandemic, in order to be completed. Titles with vastly more budget and developmental power thrown at them that have achieved success to varying degrees, much like this game. If you enjoy 2D platforming adventures with an offbeat humour, Potata Fairy Flower at leasts offers a few hours of diversion despite its shortcomings.
That’s not a summary to give Potata a complete pass, because there are far stronger indie titles created out of similarly humble acorns and much more worthy of your time. More that with a lowering of expectations, the game, like Emlyn on his post-football career appearances on BBC teatime staple A Question of Sport, becomes somewhat affable during the time spent together.