Game: Pocket Academy 3
Genre: Simulation, Strategy
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows), iOS and Android)
Developer | Publisher: Kairosoft
Age Rating: US Everyone | EU 3+
Price: US $14.00 | UK £11.69 | EU € 13,00
Release Date: March 30th, 2023
Review code used, with many thanks to Kairosoft.
Kairosoft is back with their latest offering on the Nintendo Switch, Pocket Academy 3. Build and manage a world-renowned school and encourage your students to achieve their dream careers.
Here at LadiesGamers, we’ve reviewed several of the Kairosoft games – how will this one rate? Will I be able to create the world’s No. 1 educational establishment, or will my students fail, and my academy be put into special measures?
Starting Your Pocket Academy
At the start of the game, you create your academy’s name and select the uniform style for your students. You then create your first student: give them a name, select the face type, decide on male or female and choose their character type. Luckily, you only have to create one student, although you can change the names of the others.
Aida Scriber, the Vice Principal, introduces herself, and the entrance ceremony begins. You start with two students and, with Peaches Orchard as your year 1-1 class teacher, your academy gets underway. Aida leaves you with the suggestion of building more facilities but doesn’t give any further guidance. However, you soon receive a student request to build a vending room. This is a good prompt to explore the menus, not only to find out about requests but also how to build facilities.
Pocket Academy 3 is quite addictive to watch. At the end of lessons, the little pixelated characters wander around the school and grounds. As they interact with objects or each other, they increase their skills, gain research points and make comments. And when they first talk to each other, they make friends, it’s adorable! If the students become really good friends, they might even become a couple.
There are several buildings which you have immediate access to and more unlock as you fulfil requests and level up. Most buildings will increase popularity, give research points and increase student skill stats. Trees and plants will also give a ‘plant boost’ to nearby buildings. However, animal pens or harvest plots give an annual income rather than research or skill points.
To enable buildings to function within the school and grounds, you must link them. Moving a facility is easy enough, but you must relay the flooring or path.
Placing three certain buildings near each other triggers a popularity ‘spot’. This boosts the research points, skill stats and popularity of all nearby buildings. As you build or move a building, a light bulb symbol will appear on other buildings, showing a potential ‘spot’. However, if you struggle to make combinations, you can buy the details from Pumpkin Products (at a price!).
Students & Teachers
New students become available after successful tours of your academy and win at interschool contests. Your academy’s popularity influences when the students will transfer or join. There are 8 character types and these dictate what kind of career choices that student has.
One career is available for each character type at the start of the game, and the others unlock via the use of the facilities. Special careers are available via sports clubs, and it’s possible that scouts will offer students one of these jobs during competitions. Each career has an ideal attitude, a required level of education and a set level of skills. For example, a competitive eater (shown above) has to be defiant, needs 200 educational points, have 400 points in athletics and 420 spirit skill points.
It’s impossible to alter the character type of students; however, with counselling, a student’s attitude or career path can be changed. Students gain educational points via normal tuition, and special classes boost the amount. Festivals, school events, little wishes, and skill seeds will all increase skill stats.
Although the availability of some new teachers is time-dependent, for example, as class 1 moves to class 2, the majority unlock based on the level of a specific facility. The teachers have different grades – the higher the grading, the more teacher training is available. Training improves teaching skills and boosts the students’ educational points.
Aiming For the Top
The start of year 11 marks an endpoint of the game, although you can continue playing. It takes about 10-12 hours to get to this point. You receive a high score based on numerous factors, including funds, popularity, reputation, number of facilities, graduate salaries, etc. This score becomes a target to beat in subsequent playthroughs. Your next new game will have some starting advantages, for example, higher starting funds, more skill seeds, previously unlocked career types and popularity spots. In addition, your students will have higher starting educational and skill points – all very useful!
However, there are many reasons to carry on playing your first game. Firstly, there is a ranking system. Your school starts as ‘New’, and can progress through ‘Promising’, ‘Famous’, ‘First-rate’, ‘Elite’ (which is the rank I got to by year 11) and finally ‘Prestigious’. Although all levels require cash to progress, the earlier rewards include money which covers the outlay.
Or you might want to aim for an average test score of 500 and become the Number 1 school.
Alternatively, you might want to unlock all the career paths and have graduated from every job. Reach the maximum students’ reputation level, unlock all the popularity spots, and complete all the contests and tours to unlock all the student types. There are even special, familiar Kairosoft characters who can become teachers. There is so much more to the game after ten years!
The game works really well in either docked or handheld mode, and there is excellent use of the touchscreen functionality. The font is generally large enough to read on a small screen easily.
Moving around the menu can be a little annoying, as ‘back’ takes you to the game rather than the previous menu level. And although there are various ways to access student and teacher information, not all methods give the right access to do certain activities, especially adding/removing teacher skills.
Some of the controls don’t have button labels, and it was a little confusing as to whether it was the A, B or R button to move to the next screen. There was one instance where the game labelled the control as A, but actually, the button needed was Y. Some of the wording was grammatically incorrect (for example, ‘Did Victory’) or back to front (for example, ’12 out of 7 students had changed), but none of it was game-breaking.
The game autosaves at the start of each new month, with a manual save available as well. However, you can only have two instances of game per user.
This is the kind of game where there is always something happening, and the screen quickly fills with activity. For some gamers, it might be too busy to look at, especially at the end of the day, seeing 48 students run across the screen, although luckily, you can skip this activity.
Sharing a similar style to all the Kairosoft management simulation games, Pocket Academy 3 has the reassuring familiarity of bright colours and cute pixelated characters. However, I would have liked a little more guidance at the start of the game – if you are unfamiliar with the Kairosoft style, you will need a little perseverance to get started.
Pocket Academy 3 is complicated. In order to help your students achieve their dream careers within the target time, you need a strong strategy to level up skills and gradings and a lot of thought as to which event will maximise your rewards whilst keeping within budget. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems it’s just luck as to whether tours and graduations are successful.
That said, I really enjoyed the challenge, even if it was a little frustrating at times.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot