Review: Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?!

Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?! is a lighthearted turn-based strategy game rife with riffs on pop culture and a generous helping of vegetable puns. Although aimed at relatively casual strategy players, HPWIS is deeper, more entertaining, and more addicting than you’d expect it to be.

Would you like fries with that?

You control a starship crewed by stalwart anthropomorphic potato girls named Cassie and Fay, who are questing to find their…well, their roots, in a manner of speaking. (Apparently, the game’s infectious vegetable humor carries over to writing reviews for it. Apologies in advance.)

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This potato character is a combination of Indiana Jones and Han Solo. You might say he’s a mash-up potato.

Admittedly, HPWIS has a little more reading than I generally like in my galactic turn-based combat games, but basically there’s a Big Evil chasing Cassie and Fay, who are desperately looking for their uncle spud (or some such).

The story is cute and fairly entertaining, and generously lifts ideas from numerous science fiction stories and pop culture, throws them all into a food processor, and spits them out of a salad shooter.

Enough story. Lettuce fight!

Fundamentally, HPWIS is like many action RPGs. You explore planets (‘dungeons’ if you will), engage in starship battles, and collect loot for crafting and upgrading your weapons, ship, and crew. This is the ‘meat’ of this otherwise vegetarian game.

While exploring planets you’ll also engage in various randomly generated ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ style story-encounters.The random story encounters are short, and there should probably be more variety in them.

In general the game could generally benefit from additional encounter types, because every exploration is essentially 2-3 ship battles and 2-3 story encounters. After a while it feels a little tedious, but at least the excursions are relatively short. You can complete an entire planet exploration in about 15 minutes or less.

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During battles you must allocate shields, manage ship energy, target weapons, and use special abilities to kick galactic vegetable space butt.

Spuds in Spaaaaaace!

Even so, Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?! still packs a surprising amount of depth into its otherwise simplistic mechanics. Combat, for example, requires you to balance ship energy (‘charge’ in the game) to fire weapons, power shields, and trigger special abilities each turn.

You can also shift shields to protect a specific portion of the ship (1 of 4 weapon locations, or the ship’s hull), target enemy weapons to neutralize them, or focus fire on a ship’s hull to destroy the ship. Your pilot also has a variety of special abilities you can trigger, which can inflict damage, buff your ship, debuff the enemy, or provide various other effects. Both Cassie and Fay have multiple abilities, and you can select which one is the acting captain/pilot before undertaking a mission.

You can only go so far if you’ve configured your ship to be a one-trick pony, so you’ll generally need a mix of weapon types to get the job done. Some weapons ignore shields, for example, and many inflict a variety of status effects (buffs, debuffs, etc.). Others have special characteristics, so there’s plenty of room for tactical creativity. Even once you find a preferred combination of weapons and tactics, multi-phase boss battles can force you to change or adapt your tactics.

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Crew must be assigned to various ship stations, such as research, crafting weapons, and manning the bridge weapon stations. Each room on the ship can also be upgraded to allow for more crew members and increased/improved production.

Even once you find a preferred combination of weapons and tactics, multi-phase boss battles can force you to change or adapt tactics

 

Personally, my favorite tactic was typically to disarm a ship by targeting all the weapons first. However, once disarmed, enemy captains will try to bribe you to escape, flee (giving you a few free turns to try and destroy them), or ram your ship. Some may even trigger a self-destruct sequence, which if successful can significantly damage your entire ship. Your ship only heals a limited amount during an exploration sequence, so be careful of this last one or it may leave you crippled for the remainder of the exploration sequence.

Welcome to the Hub, i.e. Space Town

Like action RPGs, there is a constant need/desire to improve your ‘gear’ – or in this case, your crew members, your ship, and your weapons. You do all of this at the Hub—basically the equivalent to the Town in an action RPG (but in Space!).

At the Hub you can purchase various ship upgrades, such as a bridge upgrade to increase the number of weapons your ship can carry. You can also purchase improved shield generators, hull armor, or a bigger crew quarters to house more crew. There are also upgrades for your sick bay (for crew members injured in battle), a training room (for training up crew member skills), and an engineering room (for crafting weapons).

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The Hub serves as “town” for your ship, where it automatically fueled up and repaired (for free). You can also hire crew members as well as buy crafting components, ship upgrades, and weapons.

Early on in the game it’s tempting to overlook things like the Sick Bay (or Therapy Room, as it’s called) because your crew members won’t get injured often. This becomes more of an issue later in the game; when a weapon is destroyed during battle, the crew member manning that weapon is ‘traumatized’ and suffers decreased skills until they are healed.

Tip: Definitely spend time exploring planets and getting loot. I tended to mainline a little and barely squeaked through some boss battles I would have been better prepared for had I explored more first.

If there’s one thing that’s a little difficult to gauge it’s whether or not the game has a sensible and truly balanced progression system. I didn’t have time to experiment with extreme or strange ship configurations (using all lasers manned by crew members with skills that augment them, for example), and the early game always seemed pretty easy even though I was still learning the ropes. However, this could also be because the game is skewed towards casual players.

That said, the game also makes it easy to make bad decisions and end up with ineffectual weapons and loadouts that could make things nigh impossible for you in later stages. Some additional tutorial elements might be helpful for younger or newer players.

Overall: 7 / 10 — Good

I went from almost completely disinterested in this title to playing it all the way through. Holy Potatoes! We’re In Space?! is addictive and entertaining, and I even contracted Just-One-More-Battle syndrome a few times and played longer than I  planned. For about $15 on Steam it’s a solid bargain, and it’s very kid-friendly to boot if you have some younger strategy gamers in the house.

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