Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?! is the latest in a long line of games which all seem to feature anthropomorphic potatoes for some reason. Each of the games in the series have featured different settings and themes but they’ve all been casual simulation games. This time the story revolves around a private spy agency, staffed by an incompetent brother/sister duo.
Like the rest of the series Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?! has similar, cartoon-like art assets, a simple gameplay loop, and as many pop culture references as it can squeeze into its tiny filesize. While it does a good job of looking appealing it has a few problems when it comes to keeping the gameplay engaging.
A Spying Spud
The core gameplay loop of Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?! revolves around hiring, training and dispatching spies to complete missions. There are some ancillary things like decoding information disks and building/minting your spy agency, but typically you’re focused on getting your missions done.
The focus on the completion of missions actually presents the games first problem. Each of the missions that comes your way has a timer. On optional missions this just means if you want the rewards then you have to complete them before the timer runs down. However on main story missions your failure means game over.
These game overs are frankly one of the most annoying and frustrating things in gaming. When you get a game over you’re booted back to the title screen. You then have to select one of your saves. If you don’t keep your old saves you can easily find yourself completely stuck with no way to progress.
The ease with which you can find yourself completely locked out of completing the game is staggering. Unfortunately not only is it too easy to do, but the game doesn’t even make it clear from the get-go that it’s possible. It’s only after you let a critical mission sit there for a while that the game informs you of how dangerous forgetting a main mission actually is.
Realistically Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?! could have done with leaving the timers off of story missions. The timers on optional missions do a good enough job of keeping things tense, without punishing those who didn’t think too far ahead.
There is very little active gameplay going on in Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?! For the most part when you dispatch a spy on a mission all you can do is select their plan and equipment. Once they’re on the mission all you can do is abort when things start to go wrong.
This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, except that you’re operating on very limited information. You can select from one of up to four actions based on each characters four stats. Each obstacle has different weaknesses and resistances and you select based on these things as well as your own stats.
Once they’re off it’s something of a total crap shoot as to weather you’ll be successful or not. The game gives you a vague low/mid/high risk indicator to tell you if you’ll succeed, but beyond that doesn’t inform you what you’re doing wrong.
Even in the more active story segments you’re basically playing rock-paper-scissors. Nothing that quite manages to make up for the unforgivable sin of an unwinnable game state. Something which the industry had dispensed with back in the late 90s.
The Last Word
When all is said and done Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?! isn’t the worst gamer ever, although it might have the worst title. Some people out there might even find it enjoyable enough. If you get lucky you might have a fulfilling experience. However you’re just as likely to end up wishing you’d never played it in the first place.
- Decent cartoon-y art style
- At least vaguely humorous
- Simple gameplay loop
- Easy to get completely stuck
- Inactive gameplay
Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?! seems to be the next step in further tiring out the concept of using potato people to make a game funny or interesting. It suffers from an overly simple gameplay loop, a whole bunch of inactive gameplay and the unforgivable sin of not letting players finish. This final point is the final nail in the coffin that seals this game’s fate.