When learning the systems of a new game, what better place to do so than a school? It works as the perfect backdrop for the social links in the Persona series, and the childhood mischief of Bully wouldn’t fit in anywhere else. Not every school is quite what it seems however, and The Academy is full of mysteries to uncover.
You play as Sam, a boy attending at the titular Academy. Upon arrival strange occurances immediately begin to happen, and it’s up to Sam and his pals to work together to unravel the school’s riddles while keeping their grades up. It’s a classic teen adventure, but with some supernatural twists to keep things interesting.
As you progress through the story, you’ll be tasked with solving puzzles to continue, in the style of a Professor Layton game. These are usually displayed as a still image, where you’ll be tasked with selecting the appropriate answer. There are Maths based riddles, visual puzzles and tests of logic all ready to test your brain. Even at the start of The Academy the difficulty is pretty full on, and you’ll really need to think outside the box to continue Sam’s education.
If you’re stumped with a puzzle, there are bars of hint chocolate you can find around the school grounds. I was particularly impressed with how the hints don’t directly reveal the answer, and instead provide the perfect amount of help so you can solve it yourself. You are also free to guess at the solutions, but every wrong answer will take points off your score.
Puzzles aren’t the only exercise for your brain at The Academy, as your daily classes also require some studying. Before attending a lesson, you’ll be assigned a chapter (generally only a few paragraphs) of a workbook to read. You’ll be tested on the subject in the lesson, and there are no excuses for not doing your homework. I enjoyed this change of pace, and it really makes you feel like a student.
Between lessons there’s plenty to explore around The Academy, with collectables, chocolate and bonus puzzles around every corner. Unfortunately navigation isn’t particularly easy on Android regardless of the method you use. I found the virtual joystick method too unwieldy, and walked into a lot of walls; whereas the more traditional point and click resulted in Sam not getting stuck on obstacles in his path. As you never need to navigate the school under time pressure, this is more annoying than it is game-breaking.
Moving Sam from A to B isn’t the only action made harder by control issues. A regular puzzle type you’ll come across involves piecing a mysterious magical item together by dragging stone pieces into place. The problem is how exact the bits of rubble need to be slotted in, and I spent too much time dropping pieces to feel like a jigsaw whizz kid.
With all the magic, mystery and boarding school hijinks, you’d be forgiven for mistaking The Academy for a game based on the Harry Potter books. This isn’t helped by the fact that you immediately meet your ginger haired best friend and book smart female companion. Potions and Charms are replaced by history and machine classes, but if you’re a fan of J.K Rowling’s wizarding world you’ll certainly be able to spot some similarities.
The Academy is a schoolyard adventure full of mystery and brainteasers. If you can wrestle the controls into submission (and don’t mind a particularly familiar setting) the well thought out riddles and twisting plot will provide you with hours of puzzling entertainment.
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Puzzles are well designed and varied
Assigned reading between lessons adds to the school experience
The hint system never reveals too much
Lots of extra content to find
Jigsaw style puzzles require far too accurate placement
Mysterious school setting feels very familiar
SCORE OUT OF TEN
A boarding school adventure packed full of puzzles, The Academy combines Proffesor Layton and Harry Potter to provide hours of classroom antics. If you can cope with some cumbersome controls, you'll find plenty of pop quizzes and mysteries to solve within.