Parody is an extremely hard trick to pull off in the medium of video games. Possibly because comedy is inherently difficult to pull off in this medium. However, let’s say that for a strong parody game to work, there are two key things that need to be working in the game’s favour.
The first would be the narrative. It should go without saying that writing is a key aspect of almost all parody. It requires an intimate knowledge of the subject of your parody, so you are able to highlight the specific elements of that subject that can be subjected to parody.
The second is of course mechanics. Inherently important to all video games, parody games don’t just have to struggle with mechanics that are compelling, ideally, they also want those mechanics to produce funny results.
All of which brings us to today’s subject: “Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop!” which is, unfortunately, neither funny, interesting or mechanically compelling. That may come off sounding blunt, but it is particularly frustrating for the fact that it comes from a studio that could, with just a little more effort, actually make something genuinely entertaining.
Let’s go back to our key elements. Firstly, narrative. We play a young potato (all of the characters are potatoes, so I hope you like potato puns) whose grandfather was a blacksmith. You’ve inherited his weapon shop and are now responsible for turning it into a thriving business. Along the way, you’ll meet potato parodies of various characters from gaming, including a few legendary heroes. You’ll employ a variety of celebrity parodies as your workers, my starting group consisted of a Hulk Hogan parody, a Lara Croft parody and bizarrely, a Russell Peters parody.
Sadly, however, there is little more to the narrative than that. Potato puns and shallow game parodies do not an entertaining game make. At one point, a parody of FF7’s Cloud Strife shows up, but there is zero attempt to actually parody any traits from that character. It’s more like hey, look, it’s a potato that looks vaguely like Cloud, isn’t that funny? No Holy Potatoes, it isn’t. It makes me suspect that you’re the gaming equivalent of Seltzer and Friedberg and literally nobody has ever wanted that.
In terms of gameplay, there’s nothing terribly impressive happening either. Just to get it out of the way first, there is absolutely no comedy generated from the mechanics. You set your different smiths to work at their various stations, they become more skilled, until they max out their jobs and get moved to different stations. Weapons must be researched and unlocked so that they can be sold for higher profits. They must be sold in a variety of towns of various economic prosperity.
The problem is, I’ve played this game before, many times. You can find them by the dozen on mobile platforms, often with less irritating shuffling between menus than you’d find here. I’m personally a big fan of Kairosoft’s delightful Game Dev Story, which plays almost identically to this while also being vastly better mechanically and narratively.
But perhaps the greatest frustration here is that many things about the game do work. Graphically it is gorgeous to look at and some of the flavor text for activities and vacations raise a genuine chuckle that the game’s more obvious attempts at comedy can’t come close to.
The Holy Potatoes series has two games following this one, both of which look drastically more interesting. If you’re picking it up in a bundle and you’ve thoroughly enjoyed the other two, you may want to give this a try. If not, however, I can’t see myself recommending this any time soon.