The Academy: The First Riddle – Review
Follow Genre: Adventure puzzle game
Developer: Pine Studio
Publisher: Snapbreak
Platform: PC, Mac, iOS, Android

The Academy: The First Riddle – Review

Site Score
5.5
Good: Great Visuals, Fun exploration element
Bad: Repetitive riddles, No real stakes in getting it wrong
User Score
3.5
(4 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 3.5/10 (4 votes cast)

Three teenagers solving mysteries within their prestigious boarding school and stopping a big bad; this set-up might remind you of another popular magical adventure, but The Academy: The First Riddle is instead a much more mundane adventure, developed by Pine Studio and published by Snapbreak. Intended to be just the first entry in a series of games, First Riddle is here to set up our key characters and introduce us to the brainteasing puzzles challenging the students of the academy. Sadly, with how things turned out, it might be doubtful if everybody will be wanting to come back for round two.

Story

The Academy: The First Riddle follows protagonist Sam, a young boy who takes the entrance exam for the titular academy, an esteemed school for clever youths who are willing to pursue science. After a short cutscene and the exam itself – which serves as a tutorial for how the puzzles in this game work – Sam manages to pass and is lead around the school. But there isn’t a lot of time to settle before trouble starts, when the school is broken into and a bear is set loose in the hallways. Things take a crazy turn rather quickly, and it’s up to Sam and his two new friends, Dom and Maya, to solve whatever is going on behind closed doors in this school.

Graphics

Visually The Academy looks great. Overall the game does have that Harry Potter aesthetic alluded to above, mostly because of the boarding school’s beautiful environmental design full of courtyards, grand halls, and marble pillars. The character models don’t show a lot of variety on the surface, but you can still tell see an effort has been made to add small details to characters so they don’t look exactly the same, even if it is just a streak of highlight in their hair or a slightly different body type. While the overly-saturated colors might not be everybody’s cup of tea, they keep things from looking too bland.

Sound

Which leads us nicely into sound design, since bland is the main word we could use to describe the music in The Academy. Nothing bad enough to want to mute the game, but it certainly didn’t stand out in a positive light either. It was just kind of… there. Only some of the cutscenes did have more whimsical music, leaning into the general feel of the game and that was nice to listen to on occasion. There is no voice acting in the game.

Gameplay

The Academy: The First Riddle is an adventure puzzle game that combines riddles and exploration with the goal of solving the overarching mystery enshrouding the school. Playing as Sam, you get to walk around the school grounds, talk to the other students, and partake in over 200 puzzles total, many of which are optional. The story guides you along, giving you objectives that fall in line with the average student life, such as going to class, but apart from that you’re also expected to explore on your own.

The main meat of the gameplay still lies in the puzzles, however. You will encounter them all the time and while the question varies, the format remains the same: a graphic will be displayed on the left side of the screen with the question on the right side. The solution is usually either multiple choice or just a matter of putting a marker on the graphic, depending on the riddle. Should you choose wrong, you lose a try, and the game poses it like you have only ten attempts, but in reality, there is no real penalty for getting it wrong, and ten tries are more than enough to just guess your way through it anyway if you really can’t come up with the correct answer. Hints are provided in the form of consumable chocolate bars you can find around the school.

Sadly, this is where the puzzling starts to fall apart. Besides the very repetitive nature of the riddles, the translation also leaves something to be desired, which in this game can cause you to misunderstand what you’re looking for, leading to plenty of frustrations. The puzzles range from extremely simple to very hard, and there’s even the occasional trick question. Besides the riddles necessary for the plot, every riddle comes with an optional, second question, and there are plenty of daily riddles scattered around the school. All in all, The Academy starts out great but the widely shifting difficulty of the riddles and repetitive gameplay can quickly become tedious, and while the overarching plot is fine, it does little to draw you in. After a while, you find yourself almost rushing through the game to get to the next intriguing story beat, instead of truly enjoying the puzzles.

Conclusion

The Academy: The First Riddle has good intentions at heart, but falls short in the actual execution. The game looks nice and manages to pique interest in the first half, but starts falling apart halfway through when the puzzles fail to keep you engaged. While exploring the school is fun and some of the riddles can be unexpectedly hard to figure out in a good way, overall this is a weaker start to a series that might improve with subsequent games.

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Rating: 3.5/10 (4 votes cast)
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The Academy: The First Riddle - Review, 3.5 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
Jessica
Jessica


Games are my escape and writing is my passion.

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