Quick Look – Kraken Academy!! (#JustOnePercent 85/100)

Developer: Happy Broccoli Games
Release Date: September 10, 2021
MSRP: $17.99

My experience with time loop mechanics in games continues to be all over the place. Just over the last few months, I’ve had one experience that was fantastic, one that was downright awful, and now, I’ve played a bit of Kraken Academy!!, which has just left me feeling kind of meh.

I did get off on the wrong foot a little with this one, as the contrasting art styles of the actual game space and just about everything else in the game definitely was a turn off for me. I know a lot of people really like low-poly pixel art, but I’m not one of those people. I can overlook it sometimes, when the rest of the game is solid enough, but having to be constantly reminded that this game could have had a far more aesthetically pleasing style just made me resent walking around the game world. And I did a lot of walking around the game world.

The storyline is pretty out there, without actually really reaching the level of being comedic. Your parents have dropped both you and your sister off at Kraken Academy, a run down shell of a “school” divided into four clubs, where it seems the students do just about anything except go to actual classes. The character you play as is part of the music club, and one of your fellow club members invites you to a costume party in a couple days time. Only problem is, you don’t have a costume! So she sends you to the nearby lake, because of course that’s the best place to find a costume, right? Or at least a giant monster that tasks you with saving the school – and the world!

Apparently, there is a traitor somewhere on campus, and they’re planning to destroy the world by Thursday. All you need to do is solve the problems of four students – one per club – to release the spirits of the school to help fight off the coming apocalypse. Maybe also find out the identity of the traitor. But since there’s no way you could possible do all that in just three days, you’re given an amulet that rewinds time.

The accessible parts of campus – at least during your first loop – aren’t overly large. In fact, I think the pacing was probably the biggest issue that I had with the game. I felt like I had too much time for how little I knew, and there were very limited ways to speed things up. There are, however, a lot of side quests, but several of those seem to be blocked off behind time loop progression – I feel like I scoured all the available areas, with no signs of the required items. Sure, I might have missed something, but it seems unlikely that I would miss everything.

The three day cycle culminates in the costume party, which once you enter the area, stops the clock. You can take as long as you need to figure out what you need to do to free a spirit before you rewind time. I had planned to play completely through the first loop of the game, but partway through the mission, I felt stuck. I know there’s an item I need to retrieve, but I’m not quite sure how the game intends for me to do so. Did I miss something I needed to bring into the area with me? Did I miss something already in the area? Do I already have what I need in my inventory but I’m just not clever enough to figure it out? I have no idea.

I considered looking for a walkthrough to just get through it. The idea of having to replay the first three days if I missed something was irritating me even without knowing whether or not that was the case, and it was at that point I realized that this particular game just wasn’t working for me in any way.

There are quick time events throughout the game, but for me, they didn’t add to the experience. I set them to easy, so it’s not that I was struggling. Rather, it felt like the developers thought they needed something to make the game more game-y, but this just takes the game’s glacial pace to somewhere ever so slightly more draggy. I don’t much care for games that feel like the play time has been padded, and you can see the padding sticking out all over the place in Kraken Academy!! – there’s some interesting stuff here, but it takes far too long to get anywhere near it.

SteamDB estimates that Kraken Academy!! has sold between 8,500 and 23,300 copies on Steam. It has gotten only a handful of negative reviews, so my opinions definitely aren’t the popular ones. It is ranked 384 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

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