Kraken Academy!! Review: A Bizarre but Hilarious Time Travel Adventure

I’m very vocal about my love of visual novels, in particular Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (I have three tattoos!) but it may come as a surprise that I actually like other types of games too. I know, what a surprise! I love tactical RPGs such as Fire Emblem, turn-based JRPGs like Persona and adventure games like The Legend of Zelda, just to name a few. So I was very excited when I learnt about a little upcoming title called Kraken Academy!!, an adventure game developed by Happy Broccoli Studios that takes inspiration from both Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

Kraken Academy!!’s title screen

Kraken Academy!! is set in the derelict and aptly named Kraken Academy, a high school presumably located in Russia judging by the Eastern European names of all the supporting characters. Being an adventure game with roleplaying elements, you take control of a sixteen year old transfer student canonically named Paul (but that the player can name) who is tasked by the giant Kraken in the lake to free the trapped guardians of the school’s extracurricular clubs. Yes, you read that right. Using a time travel device given to him by the Kraken, Paul must replay the same three days to free the spirits and find the traitor who – unless stopped – will destroy the school.

The bizarre plot of the game sounds particularly odd when written down like this, but it makes complete sense in the technicolour fever dream context of the game, which just for the record is how the developers described it in the Steam bio. If we’re using technicolour to describe the colour palette of the game, I wouldn’t say that’s particularly correct as most of the game bar the characters themselves is dull and muted. Personally, I enjoyed this as it adds to the whole dilapidated feeling of the school, but it’s not exactly technicolour.

Screenshot from the game

That brings me to the art. The overworld as well as the mission areas are drawn in an incredibly charming pixel style and you control Paul by moving his little sprite all over the school grounds. Dialogue is presented similarly to a visual novel with each character having several proper full-body illustrations that pop up when they’re speaking. For the most part these illustrations are lovely and capture the character’s emotions well, and I was particularly fond of Paul’s who is a kind of dorky character and a reluctant hero. A few of them were not so great but the characters don’t appear long enough for it to be an issue.

There appears to be little diversity in the cast of characters with only one from memory (correct me if I’m wrong) being a POC, a surprise for a game released in 2021 that focuses so heavily on characters. I didn’t follow a lot of the development or pre-release information so I’m unsure if this was an intentional choice by the developers due to the game’s geographical setting. Still, it was something I noticed as I progressed through and met up with more of the different clubs and their members.

Screenshot from the game

I’m a big sucker for visual novels and humorous games, so personally I believe that the writing is really where Kraken Academy!! shines. Paul’s reluctance to fulfill his destiny and save the school is hilarious and his sardonic remarks to the other characters reminds me of Phoenix Wright, a character I have a deep love for. His tone often goes over the heads of his classmates which adds to the humour of it all. Every character is unique and has something about their personality that sets them apart from the others and I’m glad that the game gives you the opportunity to get to know them better through sidequests and “dates”.

Paul (who I named Bee) on a “date”

An issue I did have with the dialogue though is that once you rewind time to move on to the next quest, the dialogue doesn’t change. By the third or fourth time, I found myself not bothering to speak to the students as I knew what they were going to say already. My motivation to explore the school – which was so strong in the beginning – dropped off and I became solely focused on getting to the next plot point. With a small team this isn’t surprising, but still worth noting.

Kraken Academy!! is a story-driven game and so combat comes in the form of hitting things with your baseball bat and quicktime events. These quicktime events are mostly the same in each situation which I found help brought down the stress that usually comes with quicktime events. Controls are simple and easy to learn, albeit a little clunky but not enough to deter me from playing. I’m not great at using the WASD keys, so fortunately the game has key-binding options and I could remap movement to my arrow keys. One day I’ll get the hang of using my left hand to move around, but not today.

An example of a quicktime event

Kraken Academy!! is very fun and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t binge play it in three days. Despite its issues, I was enamoured by the world and enjoyed getting to know Paul through his bizarre adventure. If you like totally off-the-wall stories in the familiar video game setting of a high school, I definitely recommend picking it up. I grabbed it during its release sale but would gladly play full price which is only $25.95 anyway. A steal!

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