Potion Panic 2
What do you do when hordes of archetypal fantasy antagonists endeavor to invade your alchemical laboratory and sanctum sanctorum? If you're anything like the hero of Ninja Kiwi's Potion Panic 2, you don your leather work apron and funny lit-candle hat and start mixing together primary-colored liquids into powerful offensive weaponry. The sequel to 2007's Potion Panic, Potion Panic 2 is a defense game with a fun emphasis on experimentation.
To begin staving the assault on your domain, you must first mix different combinations of red, yellow, and blue ingredients to make your defensive concoctions. The tutorial that begins on your first play through will introduce one color at a time, but after that all colors are always available. Clicking the plus buttons near your alchemical storage tanks will add one unit of the color you desire, and each potion can have up to five units worth of ingredients, with more powerful and costly potions requiring more. You can mix a potion randomly with the random "dice" button or use the on-screen plus and minus buttons to experiment. You can also save up to four potion mixtures, which manifest as additional buttons on screen, and which are essential to quickly recalling useful elements of your arsenal.
Attacking is a simple matter of holding the mouse button, dragging to aim, and releasing to deliver your deadly payload unto your innumerable foes. You earn cash by defeating your boney and scaly enemies; the more of whom fall to a single attack, the more cash you make. Between waves, a "shop" screen allows you to purchase color refills, upgrade the quality and potency of your potions, and repair and upgrade your defenses. You can also buy refills and upgrades during waves, and can easily buy refills in the midst of repelling the enemy onslaught with minimal distraction. Once enemy units breach your defenses, the game is over, so keep on mixing and firing!
Analysis: Potion Panic 2 improves on its predecessor in almost every way while maintaining what was fun and novel. A handy dotted arc indicating the path of your alchemical projectiles makes aiming much easier, and there is no longer a reload timer to slow down gameplay. The crude, though somewhat-charming, artwork of the original is replaced with more polished graphics, and while the animations are a little rough, they have a Saturday-morning-cartoon vibe that reminds me of The Curse of Monkey Island. The soundtrack is serviceable in setting the light, fantasy mood, and the sound effects usefully indicate the types of potions you launch and the types of creatures that are approaching, particularly useful to alert you to when the fast-charging minotaur attacks.
Experimenting with potions remains the heart of the game. There are four types of potions: rocky or shrapnelly solids, sticky or corrosive liquids, noxious gasses, and burny, burny fire. The tutorial gives some idea of how combining colors yields different varieties of these four types, but the joy of the game is in experimenting with combinations and discovering what eldritch mixtures they yield. There are a number of possible strategies to deploy, and your particular strategy will vary depending on the potions you discover.
One major change in the game affects how ingredients are mixed. In the original, dragging pull-chains adjusted how much of each color your potion used on a scale of one to a hundred. Now you add and subtract up to five units of color to create your arcane concoctions. I am of two minds on this new system. The old way made it easier to adjust your mixtures on the fly, while the new way makes it much easier to make new potions and to keep track of how the different colors interact. Given that the potion-saving feature is also much-improved, making minute adjustments less necessary, I consider the new system an improvement overall.
The upgrade system is also now much more intuitive and better integrated into the game experience. Unfortunately, the upgrade menu highlights what for some will be a major sticking point against playing the game. The "Premium" shop allows the user to buy, with real currency, various upgrades that are not available in the free, core game, using "Mochi-coins" purchased via the Mochi-ad network. To me, most of these upgrades seem like nice but unnecessary enhancements to the core experience. The major exception is the "Guardian Angel" upgrade, which allows users to continue a wave after losing. In other words, you must purchase the ability to continue in-game. This is particularly bad because the final wave 30 boss requires a bit of clever experimenting with different potions to defeat. By the time you figure out what to do you may have already lost, and without paying up you have to restart from wave one.
I have no problem with buying in-game content, so long as purchaseables are not necessary to winning the game. I believe Potion Panic 2 skirts the line of what is acceptable. It's too bad, because it's otherwise a great improvement over an excellent concept. I still recommend trying it, as it is still possible and worthwhile to play for free.