Logic and puzzles have always been an integral part of our lives whether we realize it or not. They’re there in math problems, with people who buy more bananas than reasonable, in engineering and design, even in personal home projects. But now they are also at The Academy, ready for you too solve, logicalize, and puzzle your way through with maybe a bit of lucky guessing.
In The Academy you take the role of a boy named Sam who has applied for a position at the prestigious “Academy”, a place of five minute classes, constant pop quizzes, and phantom bears chasing the students. Well, that last one isn’t supposed to be happening at least. The Academy sets you off during the exams for entrance into Academy, with a test of wits! After passing your exam, you begin your next four years restricted to the grounds of the Academy, where you will make friends, enemies, go to classes, solve puzzles, find books, and prevent supernatural/scientific phenomena.
During your time at the Academy, you will be tasked with attending classes, which constitute short quizzes about content in the “books” you’re provided, followed by a puzzle, solving puzzles for others in order to get things you need, and putting broken mystic objects back together. Optionally, you will be: reading newspapers, finding books, attending elective courses, helping out others, and finding miscellaneous objects. At its core, The Academy is about one thing and one thing only: solving puzzles.
The Academy is what I would call a “3D Professor Layton”, boasting 200 riddles to solve, which basically come in pairs of one “easy” and one “hard”. You can explore the Academy mostly at your leisure in 3D, and when you interact with someone for a class or a “quest” point, you’ll start a two-part riddle/logic puzzle, where the first part is mandatory to finish before accessing the second part. The main gameplay will come from solving these riddles/logic puzzles. You’re given a few tools to help out, like a pencil to draw with and a ruler, but most of the time you will be using simple, or complex, reasoning.
The puzzles are found by: attending class, finding a book hidden in the Academy each day, or accepting side quests or story quests. You have a ten point initial value, which will decrease each time you get an incorrect answer. The riddles involve either multiple choice options, or dropping a marker on the picture associated with the riddle to indicate the answer. So, how is the quality of the riddles? Well, let’s talk about the main puzzles to start. Let me just say that I love puzzle games. My usual problem however, is that logic can be…subjective. While there is usually only one “correct” way of looking at a puzzle, you can still arrive at an answer depending on how you approach things. I’m pleased to say that there were very few times in The Academy that I was blindsided by the thought process involved in a solution. In fact, there were a bunch of riddles that I answered correctly, but the flavour text told me I “solved” the puzzle in a completely different method than I actually did. That being said, I have no idea if that was pure luck or intended, but if it was intended, well done.
So let’s talk about the riddles I couldn’t handle: the newspaper candle sudoku things. After about five hours roaming the Academy, solving puzzles, collecting the chocolates that give you hints, and doing these unparalleled exercises in frustration that come with the newspapers, I STILL don’t know how they really work. For whatever reason I just can’t really figure out the rules, despite the fact they’re clearly written out. Thankfully, like the books hidden around the Academy, they’re only once per day.
Academy exploration is rather lenient, as you generally have some areas blocked off, so searching for books and chocolate isn’t too frustrating. They also sparkle, so that helps as well. Character animations are, well, odd, but fully functional, I didn’t notice clipping, and the only real “glitch” I found is when I tried to enter a bathroom, ended up ten feet in the sky above a boat, and then teleported back to my room. I was thoroughly confused, but nothing crashed and I wanted to return there anyway, so I’ll call it a feature, not a bug? While the Academy is of a decent size, Sam runs around fast enough that I never got frustrated at moving around, even while book searching. It’s also quite nice that at the end of each day you have to return to your bed, so you can get anything done you need to before hitting the sack.
In terms of music and graphics, there isn’t much to write home about really. It isn’t bad, it isn’t super memorable. I do have to say that the developers chose the best name for the bully: Corn (Cornelius). I mean, I can assure you I wouldn’t take “Corn” seriously (LOL).
The Academy is quite well done in terms of both puzzles and mobility in-game. Puzzles can be challenging, but not hair removal inducing, and you’re given well enough hint opportunities to hopefully see you through, although some of the hints were absolutely useless. The storyline is interesting, and compelling enough without getting into the territory of ridiculous, and the only real frustrating parts were entirely optional, which is another plus.