Nike socks, Nike slides, Nike shorts … You know how it is, sometimes you fall in love with a brand and you go overboard with it. My ensembles need to have a theme! Surely developer Daylight Studios agrees with me as they usher in their third starch-based simulator Holy Potatoes! What the Hell?!–which releases today on Steam. Our last two chapters had potato fans managing and crafting RPG weapons and next to a grand adventure beyond the reaches of Spudnik and Yammi Griggasgarin into deep space. Where could these lovable tots take us next that could top fantasy and space travel? Why none other than a fancy tour through the nine circles of Dante’s Inferno, of course.
Unbeknownst to most, potatoes are for the most part sinful malicious creatures. The worst of which upon death, is sent to hell to be cooked (what else is there to do in hell?). Certain ones (like you) are plucked out for a strange indentured servitude as chefs for the gods of multiple pantheons. To do this, you must toss the sinful spuds into one of four machines to turn them into mashed, baked, boiled, or fried core ingredients. These cooked tots each have a predisposition towards being one or more preferred ingredient. They also have a colorful sentence or two indicating how they wound up in hell. For example, you start with Tony Starch on your cutting block who admits, “I seduced my secretary, she was hot as pepper!”.
These cooked tots have their levels of malice split into 4 color-coded groups displayed in their profile. This chart is important to take note of, it indicates which primary ingredient the sinful spud has a predisposition to become. They’ll also have a colorful sentence or two indicating how they wound up in hell. To be honest, letting some of these charismatic critters meet their true end in a cooking appliance didn’t seem fair.
Your first circle of hell should be easy enough. Tossing your sinners into the appropriate color-coded machines to build up a stash of ingredients, followed by assembling those ingredients into full meals for the impatient gods ordering meals at the bottom constitutes the core gameplay experience. Fans of Cook, Serve, Delicious! should feel right at home here, in fact, genre fans may assume this game is too easy. That would be a hasty presumption. Holy Potatoes! WTH?! has a patient and methodical learning curve. It is a little devilish how this game tunes your senses into rapidly matching ingredients to succeed, only to then introduce elements that require you to scale back your speed. By the fourth circle of hell, Greed, aside from now catering to multiple impatient gods, you are scanning each sinful spud for the “Most Wanted” individuals, which can be missed in the heat of the culinary moment. Players may also deem a spud not worthy of being in Dante’s Inferno and can send them to heaven if their malice score is under 200. As the complexity rises, I became more and more grateful the game automatically pauses (or can be manually paused with the spacebar) to collect your thoughts.
The cooking simulation and management aspects of the game are well executed. There are numerous upgrading and boosting options throughout each level, coupled with finicky gods that keep you on your toes. The gameplay may start off simplistic but afterward, is seldom dull or routine. Like the previous Holy Potatoes! games, the main game is only part of the attraction. It’s dry satire and tongue-in-cheek humor has been the series’ hallmark.
The spud-ly versions of Dante and Virgil pose as your assistant chefs providing a light comedic flavor with their cutesy animations and ill-advised culinary concoctions. On the other hand, the impatient (however generously rewarding should you appease their starchy appetites) gods such as Loki, Thanatos, Freya, and Izanami (mental note: Do these devs play Smite?) bounce in with their own dynamics. There seems to be no end to the play on potato nicknames and potato celebrities (Kitty Perry, AKA Katy Perry, has a cameo!) in these games, and this third chapter does not disappoint. It’s a shame that at times the dialog advancement can be quite frustrating. Text boxes slowly animate, and pressing click by mistake will clear the subsequent dialog and not the one on the screen. I missed quite a few lines this way. Yes, there is a ‘Skip’ button included for all the cutscenes, but then again, why play a Holy Potatoes! game to skip the banter?
Holy Potatoes! What The Hell?! is, on the outer peel, a standard fare cooking simulator. However, there’s more than meets the eyes with this title. It’s overfilled with starchy satirical carbs with a creative takeoff of Dante’s Inferno to boot. In addition, the degrees of complexity are masterfully layered by an experienced team of developers. There are impromptu decisions to be made that can hinder or apply bonuses to your kitchen. Not to mention there are silly Iron Chef style competitions that take place to determine who IS the best chef in hell. The pacing and learning curve are woven with patience and well executed. It should keep fans entertained for hours. This title is an easy recommendation for Holy Potatoes! series fans, as well as cooking simulator fans, as well as, those gamers looking for a little wit in their games.
Available On Steam