It’s been a while since I had the experience of playing Kraken Academy by Happy Broccoli Games, but I wanted to write about this game, because I think it’s worth knowing what you’re getting into especially if you’re sharing this experience as a stream as I often do with games I get. That means everything after this point is a spoiler.
Content warnings for: coercion, drug use, roofie mentions
We open the game with some sibling banter and whimsical art style. It was breezy, cheesy, and adorable. We arrive on campus and shenanigans ensue – as they often do – leading us to our motley crew of classmates. Shortly after this, we’re introduced to a large, eldritch creature and the main premise of the game. We get three days to do things and the ability to loop that time infinitely.
The characters are interesting as well. Among them we have have:
- An introvert girl who is into giraffes
- Broccoli Girl
- A very vain boy with a number of fan girls
- A conspiracy theorist
- A teacher who clearly does not want to be at school
That said, I’m a marginalized gamer and that means there are things I immediately noticed that were quite off-putting, so let’s talk about those.
As we’re introducing ourselves to our classmates, we run into one named Kostadin. His introductory dialog is, “Are you… woke?” I furrow an eyebrow, but go with “Yes” and brace myself. What follows is a number of statements that could easily be make them qualified as a QAnon member.
The sigh starts here and doesn’t stop for the remainder of the game.
Shortly after meeting the Kraken, we’re told we have a major prom happening in three days, but we also have a cataclysm approaching that happens at the same time, so we need to prioritize things. That’s fine, but we also have to talk about the interactions that lead you to the first major event in the demo. There’s a lot going on here.
CONQUERING THE CAFETERIA
You have to get by a cafeteria member who is on guard at all hours to prevent snoopy students from messing about. To deal with them you have to make tea. They ask how long you steep the tea and how many lumps of sugar it takes. However, the trick is that the values don’t matter. After a bit of thinking, I wandered into a nearby room that had a wee bottle of sleeping pills.
COSTUMING AND CONSENT
That puzzle resolved, we get an ominous cutscene and we’re off to find a way to get a costume for an upcoming party. Before we get there, we have a heart-to-heart with Broccoli Girl who tells us two things:
- She has an ex who may be at the party and whom she wishes to avoid because she immediately becomes deeply sad. She cries while talking about this.
- She also has a heavy crush on someone but doesn’t want to tell us about it.
Hold on to this.
When we arrive at the party, we have a number of fetch quests. Talk to this person for a cooler costume, find this item in a random room, get the cool kids to talk to you, etc. In the middle of all of this, we end up talking to Kostadin who, after completing a quest, hands us a small vial of something that “can make anyone tell you their deepest secrets”.
Just don’t ask him where he got that or why he has it.
Mind here, Broccoli Girl is off somewhere in tears and has made it clear that she refuses to talk to us about the situation. One of the characters (I believe it is the Giraffe girl) is aware of the situation and has opted not to say anything. So the path is made clear here because the game is set up in such a way that you cannot progress the game without doing this.
While we’re here? Kostadin is the only fat character in this game and their only traits are being a conspiracy theorist, calling people sheeple, and having what is basically a serum on hand. However, for extra flavor? He warns us about lizard people who are running the planet because antisemitism makes for good game dialog. He has no redeeming qualities unlike other characters in the game. Gotta say that didn’t feel great.
But who cares about that because we get a fun little concert where we end up stripping a bit as it goes.
Also, the place we are in is a school setting. Vaguely college-esque on the younger side of those ages.
To wit, we were forced to essentially spike the drinks of two characters in order to play a game. As a person who was streaming the game to an audience of people who have dealt with things like abuse and assault, a number of people who have various body types and some of them fat, and so on, we had to have a moment of real talk and aftercare once the demo was done because it was rough on everyone.
It makes me wonder who this game is made for. Based on the content it is definitely not for marginalized people, survivors of abuse or assault, fat people, or people who care about social justice consider the word woke is used as a pejorative.
It seems to be solely for people who make fun of people who are any of these things. This game was advertised as comparable to Monster Prom, but it fails in the one thing Monster Prom does well; it maintains its humor without saying harmful things. Monster Prom is very irreverent, but when it comes to drug use, social issues, or body types – among other things – it knows where the line is and never crosses it; spiking someone’s drink in Monster Prom makes them a werewolf as opposed to removing their agency as a person.
Ultimately, I’m sad and disappointed because there’s a lot to like about this game, but it is harmful to far too many people for me to recommend it to anyone and it is a certainty that it is too far into production to fix it assuming the writers even feel this is a problem in the first place.