Management and simulation games often feature succinct, unambiguous titles that leave no doubt about what a player will be exercising control over. Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop!?, doesn’t deviate from this formula and the title foreshadows a whimsical, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor with a strong geek culture influence.
The background story that brings you into the management part of the game is simple: Your grandfather has passed away, and his erstwhile business partner, Agent 46, informs you that you now own .1 percent of the weapon shop! Running a weapon shop might be hard work, but figuring out that Agent 46 is a not-so-subtle reference to Hitman’s Agent 47 isn’t as difficult, or that your first blacksmith, Laura Craft, is a reference to Laura Croft from the Tombraider series. So it goes with Russet Peters (comedian Russel Peters), Claude Strife (Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud Strife) and Bulk Bogan (Hulk Hogan). The thinly-veiled homages to pop and geek culture personalities are part of the flavor of the game, but have little effect on the actual gameplay itself.
At it’s core, Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! is about making weapons, selling them, meeting expenses and keeping your employees happy and that’s where the gameplay shines. You are constantly monitoring info, juggling tasks and watching the clock to ensure your plans don’t fall apart. You have to keep the money flowing through constant production of weapons, but the heroes who make up your customer base have specific tastes, and you have to ensure you are not only selling them the weapons they want, but that the weapons are crafted to feature certain attributes the heroes favor. Each weapon has a blueprint, which is unlocked through research, and each blueprint calls for different amounts and types of materials. Your weapon-smiths are hard working-potato folk, but they need rest. Push them too hard, and they’ll get surly and the quality of their work will fall. Push them to the limit, and they just might walk out when you need them the most. But if you keep them happy, they’ll reciprocate by producing weapons of extraordinary quality.
The challenge in the game comes from the constant trade-offs you are forced to make. Should you buy that attribute upgrade and risk not making payroll with three days to go until the end of the month? Maybe you should wait and make do with a lesser-quality weapon until you can safely afford it. Who’s going to leave the shop and sell weapons? Who’s going to search or shop for the crafting materials you need? When is Bulk Bogan going to get the vacation he desperately craves? Every decision you make means that something else you need to do will have to be pushed further down the timeline. This balance is what keeps the game going and what makes you want to keep going for just one more choice…and then another…and then several hours have passed and you’re still planning your next move. Your micro decisions affect your larger macro strategy and it’s all fine-tuned so that there is always something that needs to done and something that has to be put on hold, keeping the tension tight and the game moving forward.
Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop!? is a good game, but it isn’t without shortcomings. There are a several features, such as character buffs and debuffs, that can be triggered by numerous actions, that don’t really play a role in your strategy. There’s hard cap placed on the maximum number of weapon-smiths for each map. There’s no latitude to accommodate a particular debuff by pulling a character off a duty, because in most cases you are working against the clock and you need all of your characters in play. There’s also a rudimentary skill and class tree for each character, but it’s relatively simple and doesn’t add much variety to your characters. There’s also a number of random events that occur, forcing you to select from one of two choices. The events start to repeat as you advance further into the game, and once you have memorized them, there’s no real surprise or value added when you encounter them again. There’s also the question of replay value. Unless Daylight Studios releases significant updates, expansions or DLC in the future, this is not a game you will play over and over once you have beaten it. However, a normal play-through is easily 12-15 hours, longer if you are taking a completionist route. For a game falling under the 20 dollar mark, it’s a good value for your money and time.
Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale is listed as one of the inspirations for Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! However, the game I most often found myself comparing it to was Darkest Dungeon. Not because of tone, obviously, but because both games feel like they share a management core and a well-executed integration of art style, music, theme, flavor and game-play mechanics. Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop!? could easily be mistaken for a mobile game. The art-style is simple, colorful and vibrant. The soundtrack and sound effects are pleasant enough, but nothing that’s going to make your adrenaline pump. The writing is good-natured and intentionally goofy. The management simulation genre is replete with broadly similar examples of gameplay, but the cumulative effect of all the elements is greater than the individual parts. For the most part this game is a fine-tuned experience that encourages your need to grind and see just how far you can go, choice after choice.
On Steam Daylight Studios