Hi! I hope it's not too late for me to post this. I was following your devlog thread throughout the jam, and I apologize for never having commented on it – your ideas and mockups looked so good that I think I was intimidated. I like the game itself even more than I expected! You've created something really impressive and charming.
SPOILERS BELOW if anyone hasn't played it yet!
The ingredient puzzles mostly weren't hard for me, but I did have trouble with choosing the liquid for the Cat Thief's fog sprite. Magic rainwater creates clouds, which become fog when they're close to the ground, and the dark smoke in the illustration for Dragonflame ale also seemed to fit the Familiar's suggested keywords of "hiding" and "dark." Jeweled honey was actually the choice that seemed least likely to me! If the player was supposed to pick up on the association of jewels with thievery, the Familiar's suggestions don't point to that; if the idea was that the amber crystals "hide" in the honey, then the Familiar puts the player on the right track, but it was a little confusing for me because I thought the answer would relate to fog imagery.
I guess that's related to another note I have about the sprite recipes: they're ostensibly weather spells, but sometimes the right ingredient has less to do with weather than with something about the client. The pussywillow in the Cat Thief's recipe is the example that the Cloud Mage comments on (and that made me smile), but what puzzled me is that the Gryphon Gunner's recipe ends up being about courage and flight more than it is about sunny weather, which is what she had requested.
I didn't find the puzzles very difficult other than my trouble with connecting the associations. There were relatively few ingredients to combine (this isn't a criticism; it felt just right for the length of the game) and I realized after a while that the first three clients' recipe ingredients were mutually exclusive. Having the Plant Tamer's recipe break away from that pattern felt like a neat way of elevating the challenge a little, since it meant I couldn't just eliminate ingredients I'd used for previous clients, but it was still straightforward. I don't feel like the puzzles were too easy, because it didn't seem like challenge was really the point of this game. You said in your devlog that you wanted to depict how failure isn't the end of everything, and I think you accomplished that. (As a side note, I really appreciate that message, since I strongly identify with the Boo Boo Sprite.)
Just as a side note, I love that the spell formula consists of a plant for life energy, a liquid catalyst, and a sweet to feed the sprite. It makes sense in magical terms (if that's not a contradiction), while being distinct enough from other depictions of witchcraft that it's a great worldbuilding element, too.
I liked the characters a lot! I think my favorite was the Familiar – their* visual design is not only cute but also a neat way of depicting that they were made from the Cloud Mage's own energy, and I found them really endearing right from the introductory flyer-distribution conversation. The clients were all charming in unique ways, too. On the other hand, I feel like I didn't get a very good read on the Cloud Mage herself. She seems very business-minded, but she says "oh, fine, ruin my fun" when the Gryphon Gunner tries to bring her attention back to the spell; she jokes around with the Merserker after getting over her initial intimidation, but her attitude toward the Plant Tamer is completely serious and very accommodating, and I didn't know if I was meant to interpret that as her having a little crush on him or what. I get that she tends toward sarcasm and is more guarded about expressing sincerity, but I think what threw me off was that she seemed flippant about her business just as often as she seemed like a hard-working entrepreneur. This might all just be my own difficulties with character analysis showing, though, and her relationship with her Familiar felt sweet and authentic.
*I apologize if you used pronouns for the Familiar and I just missed them or forgot what they were!
A couple miscellaneous things:
- On the first night, there's a line in the "Talk about being yourself" sequence where the Familiar says that the Cloud Mage failed a spell, even if the player succeeded at their spell that day. (Conversely, I did notice and appreciate that their night 4 conversation about underwater society changes a little if you first talk about the client.)
- I love the music stopping when the Cat Thief makes his pun, but I think it'd be even more effective if it stopped right on that line, rather than on the next one.
- Near the end of day 4, the Merserker's sprite is supposed to flip, but doesn't, and an error message appears on the bottom of the Ren'Py window (sorry if you already noticed this one).