Don’t you just hate it when you arrive at a new school, and not only is the complex falling apart, but the lake alongside currently has a giant sea monster residing in it? No… Is it only me? Oh. Well, in that case, let me introduce you to Kraken Academy!! a top-down puzzle/adventure game from Happy Broccoli Games which sees you play as a new student to the aforementioned school where the monster from the lake tasks you with cleaning up the school and stopping it from falling apart.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Wonderfully weird story|
+ Absorbing gameplay
+ Beautifully animated cutscenes
|Negatives||– Not enough depth |
– Meaningless side quests
– Strange monetary system
|Price (When Reviewed)||£15.99|
|Our Playtime||6 hours|
|Available On||PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC|
There is no time wasted in Kraken Academy!!, once your mum has dropped you and your annoying, more successful older sister off at school, things quickly become weird. A girl, who is a literal walking stem of broccoli, whisks the newbie on a tour of the school and after a short introduction, the game set me on my path where I encountered the kraken in the lake who laid out exactly what’s been going on. As it turns out, someone has been messing with the school’s ecosystem that has caused all the degradation in the area, causing four mythical deities to disappear. Our squiddy friend estimates that the school only has 72 hours in which to identify the culprit, restore balance, and maintain some kind of order between the students, all before the world shakes everything to the ground.
Once the kraken overlord spelled out the main story, it was off to explore the school and discover what Kraken Academy!! is all about, and it’s a pretty straightforward concept; follow the clues set out for each mission and unravel the story. The game is up-front in telling you how to get from Point A to Point B, but it lets you get on with it – if I was told to go to the music hall in the morning, it was up to me whether or not I actually heeded that advice.
The story of Kraken Academy!! and its unique characters are engaging right from the beginning, and the scripting is witty and sarcastic from the off. The absurdity of the plot is acknowledged from the get-go, and carries on throughout the game’s short run time. Clocking in at 4-5 hours, there is no fat on the plot and at no point did I feel that the story dragged; when the credits rolled it felt like the right time to say goodbye to such a strange game.
I was happy that the game didn’t shout at me for not being a perfect student, and I started my playthrough talking to certain people to unlock additional side quests for me to complete. Much like the main story, these additional missions were pretty clear in their objectives; one revolved around delivering a letter to someone’s crush, or collecting ingredients for a birthday cake. While completely optional, they were relatively simple tasks to carry out, though some were time-locked and could only be completed during certain periods of the week.
Starting school on Monday and only having till 23.59 on Wednesday to complete all of these quests may seem like a tough task, but the kraken bestows a sliver of one of his tentacles that allows time travel back to the first day. I know what you are thinking, and yes, Kraken Academy!! does riff heavily from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for the time jumping element. The whole 72 hours to save the world schtick has been done to perfection in the 2000’s Nintendo epic, and whilst there are obvious comparisons to Majora, restarting the clock in Kraken Academy!! isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
It was nice that each restart allowed me to keep all my money and equipment, it allowed me to head to the additional areas that you unlock throughout the game, but the multiple restarts and having to talk with students and skip through the same dialogue, or having to wait for specific times so that new areas can be accessed soured the experience. With each reset, I felt more and more like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, when he becomes the murderous hellraiser who becomes disillusioned with his situation. It wasn’t great speaking to someone on a Tuesday and being told to travel back in time to the previous day to complete a task. I think it could have worked better if the game allowed a school term to get to the bottom of the goings on rather than having to manage everything in a tight timescale to stop repeating the same dialogue every few minutes.
Kraken Academy!! might not have time jumping completely nailed down but it certainly does excel when it comes to the presentation. I am absolutely in love with the game’s artstyle. The pixelated characters that run around in a borderline post-apocalyptic landscape instantly immersed me into the world; it reminded me of Baobab’s Mausoleum, and at the dawn of each day as the school degraded even further, it cleverly showcased what Happy Broccoli can develop. The straight-up weirdness of the characters and situations, such as the kraken appearing in various toilets to accost our nameless hero for taking too long, never got old, and all this was contrasted by bright and colourful high-speed cutscenes that looked like a modern anime set in a school.
As the story unfolds areas of the map slowly open up, and to first gain access you have to buy the relevant building pass. As a poor student you have no money to speak of, but collecting bottles around the campus allows you to recycle them for that cold hard wonga you desperately need. This in itself makes sense, and you can even unlock upgrades to the recycling machines to payout more cash. There is one snag though, once you have bought the access key to the relevant area, it’s permanently unlocked, even when you time travel back to the first day. This renders the currency useless, and by the time you have the ability to upgrade the machines, there’s no need to buy anything. Granted you can spend some coin customising your dorm room but these items are relatively easy to obtain – perhaps additional costumes or uniforms would have justified the mechanic a little more but it just seemed pointless by around half way through the game.
I wanted to like Kraken Academy!! more than I did. It’s a game that’s wonderfully strange, full of great ideas and has an engaging main story. While I was at the school, I was thoroughly absorbed into the rotting world, obsessed with cleaning it up and building out my friendships. The problem is that outside of the main story there was nothing to keep me past Wednesday, sure a few side quests are present, but they can easily be ignored. In fact the amount of time logged in our ‘At A Glance’ table is predominantly me collecting bottles, even though it was a pointless endeavour. Don’t get me wrong, I recognise this is an indie game and Happy Broccoli Games have done wonders with what they have created, but if the game had just a few additional classes, or something to work towards such as an alternate ending, it’d be a game I’d recommend in a snap. For the price, it is worth a look, so long as expectations are set accordingly.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.