First day of school? Let's get kraken!
Kraken Academy takes the new kid at a new school experience and throws in a giant kraken that bestows you with an amulet that allows you to travel back in time and a mission: uncover the secrets of the titular school and solve a mystery that threatens to destroy it. Taking the form of a quirky but simple adventure game, Kraken Academy makes an abundance of references to other video games and is charming enough while it lasts. The end comes a little too quickly, however, and a somewhat shallow feeling is what remains at the end of this school-set foray. Still, there's something to be said for a more laidback experience that's filled with in-game achievements to shoot for and its fair share of humor.
After naming your character, the game opens on that familiar car ride with your mom taking you and your sister Nadia to Kraken Academy. It's your first day, and having been abandoned by the too-cool Nadia, you're left to your own devices. That is until you meet Broccoli Girl, your first friend and the one of the first indications that this isn't going to be a straight-forward school experience. After Broccoli Girl introduces you to the other members of the music club, she suggests that you head over to the lake to try and find a costume for an upcoming party, and that's where you meet the aforementioned Kraken. The amulet it grants you allows to rewind time across a 72-hour period; the Majora's Mask comparison is inescapable (cue Link playing the Song of Time on his ocarina).
Different events happen across the various buildings and areas of the academy on different days, either Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Calling your mom from a phone booth or sleeping in your dorm room allows you to move time forward, and so time manipulation plays a regular role in advancing the story and completing side quests. You need to free spirits that have been trapped with specific students at the academy, starting with Broccoli Girl. Finishing this part of the story opens up a new section of the academy and gives access to new students with whom you can interact. For one example of needing to travel through time, you might need to meet a group of friends on one day to set up an event and then move to the next "rainy day" when the event actually takes place. Certain people will be in different places on different days, and may have items or requests to offer only on the Wednesday or in the evening, for instance.
Those who want to see all that Kraken Academy has to offer will find a dozen or so individuals to befriend through sidequests and a total of 48 in-game achievements. Solving all of its puzzles and finding all of its secrets can certainly pad out the game's length, but the main story on its own doesn't maintain the momentum it generates early on. The primary missions that are associated with each new club you gain entrance to make are a joy to work through, often requiring a bit more contemplation and brainpower. Outside of these, the minute-to-minute gameplay isn't overly demanding, but it isn't all that captivating either. It doesn't help that the visual style is incredibly plain, and so there's not quite enough to hold your attention through Kraken Academy's five or so hours.
One specific mechanic that doesn't quite stick the landing is in the game's currency and how it's acquired. Bottles can be found by using your trusty baseball bat to smash open garbage cans, lockers, and large trash receptacles, and these can be deposited in recycling machines to earn money. The problem is that there are really only three things to spend money on: club passes required to advance the story, saving your game at the cost of a single coin, and furniture for your dorm room. Because you never actually need to return to your room, the furniture doesn't serve much of a purpose, and if you do even a little bit of bottle collecting you'll probably have enough for the club passes when it comes time to purchase the next one you need. It would have been nice to see another purpose for your character's efforts in recycling, but instead most of the money earned feels worthless.
After the final bell had rung and school was out for the day, I felt a bit underwhelmed by Kraken Academy, especially the final mission. There isn't that much to do that really feels meaningful or unique outside of the main story, and I wasn't enticed to explore the campus and play around with the six time periods as much as I could have. The same quick-time events are repeated about a dozen times, and there just isn't enough variety or surprises to make this game an easy recommendation. That said, I found it a nice palette cleanser between longer and more involved games given its approachable design and simple puzzles, so if that's what your in the mood for, Kraken Academy might be worth a campus visit. A free demo on the eShop is also available for anyone on the fence. Ultimately, it's nowhere near a failing grade, but the only A I'd give is for effort.