Jul 14, 2011

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Review: Pocket Academy

Review: Pocket Academy

Kairosoft has already created two successful business sims for the iOS store in Game Dev Story and Hot Springs Story. As I stated previously, I really enjoyed Game Dev Story.  The game was incredibly addictive and saw me constantly draining my battery for hours on end.  Its follow up, Hot Springs Story, was enjoyable as well, but didn’t feel as much fun and not nearly as addictive.  The first game put players in the role of an up-and-coming game developer whereas the second left you in charge of running a spa.  Their newest release, Pocket Academy, has you starting up your very own school.  Can Kairosoft keep things fresh, or is this another been-there-done-that title?

You’re given the choice of five different sites to start up your own academy.  Each venue is slightly different and offers unique terrain as well as different facilities, which I’ll touch more on later.  You’re the principal of this new school and are given an assistant principal, one teacher, and only two students to start.  Unlike other Kairosoft titles, Pocket Academy actually offers a good amount of assistance in getting players acquainted to the new mechanics.  While there’s still lots of features the game doesn’t explain, it’s much better then leaving you in the dark like their other two titles did.  After learning the basics, you’re left with the task of trying to become the most prestigious school around.  Raise your students’ grades, hire and improve your teachers, host class events, and do everything you can to garner attention and interest in your classes.  After your students’ three year tenures, they eventually graduate, and if their skills are high enough, they get to start a new life with their dream jobs.  Sadly, not every student gets this opportunity, and it’s up to you to help guide them to a more possible future given their lowered skill set.  Shortly after your third year class graduates, the new semester starts with an incoming class of bright-eyed students that you once again must shape.

Pocket Academy is easily the most ambitious title released from Kairosoft.  Not only are the graphics beautifully animated, but the game runs smoother then Kairosoft’s other two offerings.  As your students grow, so do the facilities offered, as well as the activities at your disposal.  Students will begin to request facilities like a cafeteria or a new baseball field, which must be researched and funded before you can actually build them. But how can you fund new equipment and facilities if most of your money is spent on teachers’ salaries and the upkeep of your school?  Well, aside from the tuition you get from each student, animals that are tended to yield additional cash as does harvesting crops.  Tuition can be raised when a student of yours passes challenges in various subjects ranging from Math to Spanish.  Of course, their chances at passing these challenges are increased depending on how high their grades are in that specific subject.  Besides conducting special classes to improve specific grades, you can level up your teachers, who in turn teach their students at a higher level.  But with higher leveled teachers, they’ll need higher salaries to compensate their skills.  So now you have to prioritize whether more facilities to fuel your students is key, or brighter teachers with higher pay.  This careful balance adds to the strategy and shows how much Kairosoft has grown since Game Dev Story.

Students will spend their time on a myriad of activities through each semester.  Besides attending class and improving their grades, they’ll tend to animals, farm crops, make friends, and even attempt to have boyfriends and girlfriends.  Watching your students grow is a very satisfying experience and pushes you to want to continue improving their surroundings.  You’re often updated by the school paper showing you how your school and its students are perceived.  Sometimes an article praises your students, which, in turn, grows interest in your school, resulting in more potential students.  Interest in your school can also grow when different functions are thrown or new facilities are built.  Facilities are not only important in attracting new students and keeping interest in current ones, but they also improve student attributes besides grades, such as attitude and overall intelligence.  Facilities also provide your school with research points used for funding special classes, leveling up teachers, and researching newer facilities.  In general, a good majority of anything your students and faculty does increases research points, but interacting with the many sites at your school provides a good amount.

If there are any issues I have with this game, it’s that you’re left in the dark about how to unlock certain things.  Creating popular spots are often trial and error, and even after completing my first run, I still have no idea how to unlock every facility.  The game will also eventually grow stale, but these minor problems shouldn’t prevent you from downloading this great title.

It’s odd to say that seeing your kids graduate in-game is satisfying, but honestly it truly is.   Through each year you see your students make friends, gain relationships, join clubs, and grow until they finally say goodbye at a tearful graduation.  This game can genuinely make you care about your students and their lives and that alone is worth the asking price.  Throw in the fact that there are multiple maps, an endless mode after completing an 11 year run, and special teachers and facilities to unlock, and you’re given one of the best and most addictive iOS games in the store.  There are tons of things I could’ve elaborated more on, but much of the fun is learning about it yourself.  If you’ve yet to download a Kairosoft title, do yourself a favor and pick up Pocket Academy.

Pocket Academy
Platform: iPhone (reviewed), iPad
Genre: Simulation
Release Date: 06/29/11
Developer: Kairosoft
Publisher: Kairosoft
ESRB Rating: 4+
MSRP: $3.99