Arcane Arts Academy
GameHouse titles being quality products is always a given, although there are some negligible differences in terms of the effort invested into developing / producing them. Arcane Arts Academy is the first installment of a brand new series that seems extremely promising, and even though it does have some minor flaws, it can still be considered one of their better titles, conveying a wonderful and entertaining story.
Our new heroine is Erika – a young lady who is suddenly swept into a world of magic when one day, after her grandma’s recent disappearance, she discovers a secret portal to an alternate world. By travelling through this portal, she ends up in the Arcane Arts Academy – a college where the students learn to use all kinds of magic. There she encounters her grandma who is part of the teachers staff and learns that the reason for her disappearance from the real world is an alarming situation inside the academy. After finding out that she has a witchy heritage and coming to the realization that she has the gift of chaos magic deemed to be very dangerous, Erika decides to enroll in the academy and learn how to control her powers. As she starts her new life as a student of magic, Erika makes new friends but also an enemy, finds love and attempts to help the teachers fight off the threat lingering upon the academy.
The gameplay is pretty much the same as in any other GameHouse game. As Erika, you will help your other college students by fulfilling their requests, combining various ingredients into potions or handing over the items they need for the class, while also billing them at the checkout. As you progress throughout the game, the complexity of available items and combinations increases substantially and the number of students you need to handle simultaneously also grows, while the amount of items you can carry at once also expands. Arcane Arts Academy is purely focused on managing your actions, without adding additional minigames that could interrupt your focus. There are still timed actions (preparing drinks for example) but they’re usually easier to handle, because there’s only one type of them in a level.
The coins gathered from billing your fellow students exist only for the score. The stations cannot be upgraded or customized in any way, but there is one external scene – Erika’s room – that you can rebuild and decorate with the diamonds earned from completing levels; though it solely has a cosmetic value, it gives the player a motivation to retry a level in order to get 3 stars and thus maximum diamonds.
In terms of difficulty, I find Arcane Arts Academy to be quite challenging. I usually have little to no trouble playing similar titles on Normal, but here I had to switch to Easy after a few levels because the amount of coins needed for obtaining 3 stars is too demanding. On top of that there are a few levels which have the Easy and Normal target scores inverted – so if you see you’re struggling on Easy, try doing the same level on Normal. There is no difference in how a level unrolls between two difficulties apart these target scores. Also, if you played other GameHouse games, you probably know that one of your priorities should be checking out people when they still have the max amount of hearts. In Arcane Arts Academy though, it seems that if you want to reach these target scores you will need to rather wait for people to stack up at the checkout and bill them all together, regardless of whether they lose hearts or not. It’s a game heavily oriented on combos (they really push the score up) and the amount of points you miss out on by losing one heart is less than what you can gain from doing a combo instead.
Like in other GameHouse games, there are 60 wonderfully crafted levels, each of them having one “challenge” task that you must complete during the level. The alerts for these quests are most of the times visible as a bubble on top of the NPC that you need to help, but in some levels they are timed actions that you need to keep track of on the top right corner of the screen and these require an increased degree of discipline and concentration (for example you’ll need to reach a specific location inside the level every few seconds, on a timer). Also, following GameHouse’s level patterns, each of them is preceded and succeeded by an animated cutscene that unravels a new story snippet.
Arcane Arts Academy is a lovely game with a heartwarming story and nice, casual gameplay. With its magical setting, it brings a refreshing change of scenery while keeping all the old mechanics in place.