Indie Wonderland: Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?!

Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?!, capitalization and punctuation marks non-optional, combines two of my self-professed great gaming loves: my love of running item stores and bilking world-saving adventurers out of their hard-fought cash (a la Recettear), and my love of playing games with ridiculous names (like last week’s Tembo The Badass Elephant).

I first ‘discovered’ this game when a helpful Steam friend launched it five times in a row, giving me ample time to soak in that name. Holy Potatoes. Holy Potatoes. A… weapon shop? I was immediately enthralled by it. Then, I checked out the Steam page, only to be further taken in by what looked like a bright, optimistic, happy game about… well, about bilking world-saving adventurers out of their hard-fought cash.

And then I suddenly owned the game. Funny how that works, huh?

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, high.)

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

Opening

The title screen of Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! has a lot to take in.

Where do I even *start*?

First thought: the happy, chiming background music definitely matches the cute and bright visuals. Second thought: but what in the devil are these visuals showing? I can tell these obloid little spuds are probably supposed to be people, but what’s the deal with the outfits on display? Horseshoe Hat Sheriff? Grim Half-Naked Glasses Man? S…Sonic The Hedgehog Cosplayer? And don’t even get me started on Stealthy General and Cheerfully Waving Guerrilla Fighter. What an ensemble.

In an attempt to stop myself from pondering the hidden meanings of this masterpiece for another full hour, I try to escape to the Options screen. That… doesn’t quite take.

Damn you, Options! I count on you to be my lifeline!

There’s not a whole lot of Options, either. Nothing more graphical than resolution settings and windowed mode, and nothing more aural than two perfunctory volume sliders. On the surface, I’d say this gives the impression of Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! being a souped-up mobile port. Nothing wrong with that, obviously. But then the Keyboard Shortcuts button opens up into a fully customizable list of key bindings, and I don’t know what to believe anymore.

The key bindings also do a much better job of covering up the title. Thanks, key bindings!

Oh, and there’s also a dedicated Social Media Button. And you know what I’m gonna do? I’m going to not press that button, and instead, start this game proper. Time to learn what Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! is all about!

Initial impressions

Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! is about an angry man and a shack in the middle of nowhere.

“Hmph, where is that silly little spud”, grumbles the spud-shaped… Agent 46? Ah. Ah, okay. I suddenly see what this character design is going for. Very ‘clever’, Holy Potatoes. Though I definitely see why the Agency would call a do-over on this particular operative.

“…Let’s try that whole ‘legendary assassin’ thing again, okay?”

Agent 46 stands in place for a bit — is he supposed to be taped to the dialogue window, or actually standing inside the shack? It’d be a tiny shack in that case.

Anyway. Agent 46 stands in place for a bit, grumbling about how someone else isn’t there. Grumble grumble, this person is silly, not at all like their grandfather, good for me though *cut to dramatic ominous-looking shot*

…Oh, hey, here they are.

Ha! Comedic timing. Holy Potatoes, you’ve truly mastered *all* forms of humor.

“Alright”, Agent 46 switches gears faster than the eye can follow, “stand back for my welcome spiel.” He takes a deep breath, and then:

“Hello! You must be the grandson of Batata, the legendary potato smith.”

For a few seconds, I’m confused. Potato smith? I thought we were gonna make weapons? I mean, I can tell that ‘potatoes’ is part of the title, but I just figured that…

And then all of a sudden, something clicks. Not ‘potato smith’ like in ‘weapon smith’. ‘Potato smith’ like in ‘human smith’. They’re… they’re all potatoes, aren’t they? All the strange potato-shaped, potato-coloured hominids, they’re all actually supposed to be potatoes.

I’d say ‘everything makes so much more sense now’, except it really, really doesn’t.

At the very least, the title is fully covered now. I was actually thinking that ‘holy potatoes’ was a weird choice for an exclamation. Why not use the time-tested ‘holy smokes’ instead? But no, no. I get it now. World of sapient potato people. I can roll with this. I’ve seen weirder.

Agent 46 obliviously spiels on. It transpires that as the only heir to the late Batata, I’ve inherited his blacksmith shop. Which is to say, 0.01% of the shop, because apparently Agent 46 owns the other 99.9%. Guessing that old granddad wasn’t the most savvy of business-spuds. Nor is Agent 46, actually, because those numbers don’t actually add up to 100%. But, whatever: the point is that Agent 46 and I are going to work together to make this weapon shop great again!

The potato-peoples’ money is called $tarch, and I think that unnerves me less than it actually *should*.

The division of labor falls thusly: Agent 46 will ‘help with the complicated financial stuff’, and ‘expand our business worldwide’. Meanwhile, I’ll do all the actual weapons-crafting. And that… honestly doesn’t sound like too bad of a partnership? Slightly heavier on the exhausting physical labor part for me, but I’m assuming that finding new customers is also a pretty tough job. Particularly in-between all those assassinations.

It’s a deal, then! Let the heavens themselves bow before the partnership of Agent 46, and…

What is my name, actually?

Ah.

Yeah, that won’t do. Let’s change that name up real quick… while still keeping to the theme!

Similarly, I name my store ‘the Storetato’.

Alright! Time to actually learn how to make weapons!

500 starting $tarch, *and* a brand-new store-controlling HUD. Thanks, Agent 46!

Okay, let’s see what we have. In the top left, I can see my store’s name, and my current cash reserves. I don’t know what the little face and the baggage claim ticket mean, but apparently the thumb’s-up icon represents my store’s fame. I’m not very famous yet, but I will be! As soon as I make weapons, and then, sell the weapons, my renown is sure to increase.

Except, it turns out I don’t actually make the weapons. What, what, whaaat? As the store’s owner, my talents are apparently more geared towards planning and middle management. To do the actual weapon-crafting, The Storetato employs dedicated weapon smiths. Like my first smith, Laura…

Laura Craft. Yeah, I should have known that was coming.

“Laura’s a Designer”, the game tells me, “she’s good at adding Attack to weapons.” I don’t quite know what that means, but I spend a few seconds exploring the new Smith UI nonetheless. The four coloured stat buttons are ATK, SPD, ACC, and MAG, with values of 17, 6, 4, and 2. Laura is a level 1 Designer, and also a level 1 Merchant and — only — a level 1 Explorer. She pulls in a salary of 200 $tarch per month. Man, I can’t wait to understand what all of that means!

As a smith, Laura can work in my weapon shop. She has to be assigned to a particular working station, though. My shop has a drawing board, a whetstone, and an anvil, each with three circular spots. And I learn I can assign smiths to those spots, to work on particular weapon qualities: the (reddish) drawing board boosts Attack, the (blue) whetstone boosts Accuracy, and the (green) anvil boosts Speed. Nothing to boost Magic yet, apparently, though I find myself eyeballing that strange yellow chimney. What’s your deal in my shop, chimney? If your colour scheme is any indication…

Anyway. As a Designer, Laura does her best work boosting weapon Attack. So I assign her to one of the open spots on the drawing board.

And no sooner do I do that, than two more smiths beam in from the sky to man the other stations!

‘Bulk Bogan’ and ‘Russet Peters’.

And now it’s time to actually learn how to forge! A new, complicated UI element pops up from the depths: eight smaller buttons taunt me with their unknowability, but all I have eyes for is the massive red ‘FORGE’ button. I must push it.

Welp. This is a lot of new information.

First and foremost: ‘Klepto Kid’?

Currently, I can forge weapons in three categories: bows, daggers, and axes. And only the weakest possible example in each category, of course. Each weapon requires some materials to be crafted, like the iron blocks I need to this dirk. Each weapon also has four projected ‘weapon growth’ bars: apparently, making a speedy and magical dirk is easier than making a powerful or accurate one. And finally, weapons need heroes and heroes need weapons: on the bottom of each weapon’s screen, I can see which heroes — if any — prefer this particular kind of weapon.

Klepto Kid likes daggers, and he likes it even more when they’re speedy! Klepto Kid: I got your back.

I select the dirk and click the Start button. And…

The view cuts back to the shop, where my smiths now stand around waving their hands in the air.

Am I involved in this process, in any way? It appears that I do not. Holy Potatoes’ tutorial does suggest that, since ‘thieves’ like speed, I could assign one more smith from their current station to the speed-boosting one. But why would I do that? Laura and Russet look so happy designing and metal-working!

I sit still for a minute, watching numbers and strange icons appear over my smiths’ heads. +1 ACC. +2 SPD. Happy face! Dragonball-style powerup pose. And all the while, a circle on the right side of the screen slowly fills up.

No, I wasn’t kidding about those poses. Check that screenshot again. Look at how into it Bulk is being right now! He knows his stat is the most important one.

Finally, the weapon is done! 18 Attack, 18 Speed, 20 Accuracy. Sorry, Klepto Kid! I let you down after all. Just like your parents.

I’m given a chance to name my creation.

I take that chance. I take it *so hard*.

Wow. I actually did it. I crafted my first weapon! I… I need a moment to come down from this high.

And so does Jarentato. He just… he just *can’t*.

Step one was forging the dagger. Objective complete! Step two, Agent 46 is quick to remind me, is selling the thing. So how do I go about…

It turns out that the world of Holy Potatoes is made up of floating square islands, interconnected in a starry void of nothing. This… complicates matters. I can’t very well rely on random foot traffic! If my shop were more famous, maybe heroes would actually seek me out for weapons… but since I’m only just starting out, the only way to hock these goods is to get the weapons to the heroes instead.

Except that, of course, I’m not actually gonna do that. Middle manager, remember? Instead, I can tell one of my smiths to do it instead. And, yes, I know they signed on to my store to smith, not to act as impromptu travelling salesmen. But tough potatoes, Bulk Bogan. Learn to diversify.

He’s going to sell my weapons… *in bulk*!

After a couple of seconds of waiting, I get a message from Bulk. He’s found the heroes on Noob Village island, and queried their interests in my dagger. Unsurprisingly, the ranger hero Terry Treehugger isn’t all that interested in Stabby McHurt. But Klepto Kid’s masked eyes are shining: not only does he offer a little over twice of Terry’s price, he’ll actually use the dagger to go adventure and level up!

Heroes that reach high levels become famous! And when they do, some of that fame rubs off on the weapon shop where they bought their fancy weapons!

And after another couple seconds, Bulk completes the return trip. He brings with him the 84 $tarch, Klepto Kid’s evaluation of Stabby McHurt — functional, but not great — and the concept of smith exhaustion levels. What a haul!

EIGHTY-FOUR BUCKS? Wow!

I’m pumped about this result, and so is Bulk — literally, he’s carrying the ‘Hyperactive’ status effect — so let’s make another dagger! This time, I make sure to crank up the Speed as high as possible: not only do I assign Laura to the Speed station as well, but I learn I can ‘boost’ one particular weapon stat by telling one smith to put in a little extra effort.

Bulk is the only one of my smiths who can boost Speed, since his class is the Speed-focused Craftsman. I can also hire an outside expert for a boost, but that obviously costs primo $tarch.

With a little more focus, Speedy McHurt becomes a much more dangerous weapon than Stabby. Correspondingly, it does about twenty times better on the open hero market.

Suddenly, my previous 84 bucks doesn’t look so fancy anymore.

From here, Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! starts introducing a rapid-fire deluge of new concepts. Exploration, training, vacation, class training, shop upgrades, travel restrictions… all of which I’d love to cover here, but I’m already about two thousand words into this review.

So here’s what I’ll do instead: I am going to keep playing for a while. I have a craft to learn, a shop to expand, and a whole mess of game systems to learn. I’m going to keep playing and getting better at Holy Potatoes… until at some point in the future, I create the most amazingly magical weapon the world has ever seen. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? I like to set attainable goals for myself.

And once that’s happened, I’ll come back here, and then we can talk about Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! in some more detail.

See you on the other side!

Onto page 2. >>

2 comments

  1. A lot of the basic systems and feedback loops sound like Game Dev Story. They can really grab you and keep you playing for a while especially when you combine it with some of the comfortable fun of a stupid number of pop culture references.

    I do find that those games rapidly lose their appeal once you disengage, they lose their stickiness surprisingly quickly.

    1. The developers do explictly mention games like Recettear and Game Dev Tycoon as strong influences. And, yeah, mechanically, it has a lot of the same ups and downs. It’s all fun and games until your subconscious picks up on the fact that you’re just making coloured number bars go up.

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