Management, espionage… potatoes? You did read that right. It can only be another Holy Potatoes! game — Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?!.
I can’t personally say I’ve played any of the other games from Daylight Studios’ franchise, but it’s fair to say, after getting the chance to play Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?!, that I jumped at the chance to play its successful predecessor, Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?! Unlike being in a space-sim-style game, this one follows a similar path but as a management sim for your own spy agency. I’m already a fan of management sims in all sorts of different forms, but running and managing a spy agency was a new call to arms for me.
Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?! is easily addictive, mostly down to its easy-to-learn gameplay. This isn’t to say the game doesn’t become more difficult as you go along — it often requires some thinking ahead of time, and sometimes even a pinch of luck, to progress.
You can recruit different types of spuds— I mean, spies —to your agency. These have various classes, which can be useful for fulfilling particular mission objectives and sometimes mean they start off with one trait stronger than the others. For instance, a ‘charmer’ will have a larger level of ‘charm’ than your other spies to start with, which could mean a higher possibility for success in a mission — if that’s what the mission calls for! That doesn’t mean you can’t increase the other stats for your spies, but it could be time-consuming, so it’s a good idea to have a good spread of spies who perhaps excel in certain fields.
A Spy Story‘s pace is extremely fast, although you can take your time if you wish. That said, missions you need to complete to progress the storyline do have a time limit, so you need to make sure you complete the mission before the timer runs out or it’s game over! — although this doesn’t resign you to starting from the very beginning, but to start from your last auto-save or saved game.
Rushing the game isn’t always the smartest decision and leaving your spies idle is a quick way to set yourself up for failure later on in the game. Management sims seldom end well if you’re only focusing on one or two aspects of the game; you always need to be looking at all avenues to help maximize your success. Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?! is no different, and it shines a great deal in this area, which helps to keep it fresh and replayable.
The storyline is fun and overloaded with puns; the game itself is positively bursting at the seams with jokes and references to characters from all walks of life: books, TV, movies, music… even real life! And whilst the story can be a little odd at times, it’s definitely not without its charms. You are guaranteed a giggle at some point, even if it’s not quite your cup of tea, and one of the thousands of references is sure to make you smile (Danilo Glover? The Childish Bambino? I was shocked that Donald Glover was a reference! That and I was in absolute stitches!).
All the hundreds of references and the storyline may help keep you invested and laughing, but once you get properly stuck into A Spy Story it can start to get difficult. For the first hour, you’ll be learning the ropes, running missions with high success rates and watching your spuds level up again and again. Then new, optional missions start to roll in for you to pick up, all with reasonable and tempting rewards— and you may start to bite off a little more than you can chew. I certainly did. Right when I thought I was managing things well, I started to fail some missions, started to miss some mission deadlines and started to not progress so quickly. Admittedly, it’s been some time since I’ve played a management sim, so I’m a little rusty and sadly ended up failing. But I didn’t let this deter me. I jumped right back in, got a whole new team of spuds and started doing egg-cellently. (What’s happening? Did I play too much? Too many puns!)
When managing your spy agency and its layout, you can create buildings that can help you throughout the campaign. Whether it be for levelling up certain traits for your spies to help them with their success rates in missions or creating items to help give you that edge in certain situations that arise in missions. Managing these buildings and using them whenever and wherever helps you progress the game, since you should never be idle. Ensuring you have a decent layout, your buildings support your research and discover new ones that will provide better training overall.
Daylight Studios have been successful with their Holy Potatoes franchise thus far, and whilst I haven’t played any until now, I have heard of some of their games. The work that has gone into creating this sim is evident, from its mechanics to its charm-filled artistic style and the many, many references that everyone will find something they like about. Daylight Studios’ focus has been on management-style sims of different sub-genres, and I feel as though they’ve managed to create a success when venturing into the spy-spuds genre.
I don’t feel as though the Daylight Studio team is playing it safe by making another management sim, since they’ve seemingly got a winning formula and I don’t see anything wrong with sticking to it. From what I’ve gathered about their last successful game, Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?!, it had a lot of management aspects but also focused on space exploration and fighting off space pirates. Okay, that does sound pretty awesome in comparison, but having a completely different setting isn’t a bad thing and will certainly suit some more than others.
So I’m now a newly-made fan of the Holy Potatoes! series. As I write this, I’ve already got Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?! sitting in my Steam shopping basket, ready to see what else this delightful series has to offer me. If you’re a fan of management-style sims, you should definitely have Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?! on your gaming radar. Those little spuds may seem odd at first, but once you get your teeth into it, you’ll find yourself having a spud-tacular time. (Okay, too many puns.) Maybe, if you’re not a huge fan of puns, this game will be nails on a chalkboard, but even so, if you enjoy the gameplay, what’s not to like? Unquestionably worth a try if you’re at all tempted, and more so if you’re a fan of the series already.
Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?! is available now on PC, Mac and Linux.