School is a tumultuous time for most people, especially when starting a new school. There’s a whole new social standing to situate yourself into, new people to get to know, new ways of teaching and a giant octopus’ trying to convince you to save the world. Well, that’s the case in Kraken Academy!! at any rate.
Kraken Academy!! is developer Fellow Traveller’s delve into entering into a new school and the mystery that surrounds it. The game was originally released in September 2021 but has recently come onto Game Pass so it’s time for us to have a look.
Kraken Academy!! follows the story of the protagonist, a young man being forced into a new school by his uncaring mother. He is joined by his bratty sister who appears to be the main benefactor of his parent's love. This is evident in the fact that your sister gets to go join the prestigious drama club at your new school, while you are forced to join the music club. The school itself is a complete dump, filled with trash and wild alligators, but the first character you meet seems nice enough. She is a Brocolli girl, named because she is broccoli. This simple introduction should be evidence enough that something is very wrong with this school and its almost gang-like fixation on the separation of the clubs. Not to mention there is a giant talking octopus who tells you that you have three days to save the school or everyone dies. Thankfully, the Kraken is willing to give you a magic amulet that lets you relive the last three days ad infinitum.
The plot does what it needs to do and it runs smoothly enough that the player never really feels lost. The tasks are simple enough to understand and the characters are clear in what they want and need at any one time. The characters themselves are all a bit one-dimensional at first, but they slowly grow as the player continues repeating the loop and more information is revealed. However, the loop does reset the memories of the player so there is a lot of repetition if you are trying to make friends with everyone before the end. There are also some genuinely funny moments with the cast and their reactions all complement the events happening in quite a genuine way. Special mention should be made to the Kraken, who is way more neurotic than a mythical sea monster has any right to be.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is really where Kraken Academy!! Struggles. It isn’t that it's bad per se, it’s more that there isn’t anything to do here. In reality, the game is more reminiscent of a visual novel than it is a game, with most of the challenges coming in the form of quick-time events where the player has to hit the button at the right time to fill a meter. It’s pretty dull in all honesty and, once you have the timing down, really hard to fail. Beyond that, there are some small visual puzzles, the occasional talking to people quest and exploration. The map size is reasonable, but the actual map does a really bad job of actually explaining where the paths are making it a bit of a pain during the first playthrough. Finally, there are costumes, and each has a specific purpose and allows the player to interact with the world in different ways.
Graphically the game is a mix of retro and anime, with the main game taking part in a sort of 16-bit world. Obviously, it isn’t as limited and there is a surprising amount of character in each of the sprites, or at least in the ones with actual names. However, when the player talks to someone the game shows anime-style characters reacting as they speak. It is a bit jarring, but it makes the conversations more interesting. The art in these talks is really good, especially when the characters are showing a specific emotion. To be honest I think I would have preferred a visual novel using this is style over the rest of the game.
Kraken Academy!! Has its moments and there is something here to enjoy for people looking for an easy story. However, if you are looking for an actual game with stakes and a challenge then really, look somewhere else.
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