Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: May 15, 2018


PS4 Review - 'Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time'

by Cody Medellin on July 2, 2018 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time is a heart-pounding 3D action RPG beat ‘em up featuring an original storyline carved from the popular anime series.

Buy Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time

As an anime, Little Witch Academia is fun. It may play on the familiar anime tropes, but it is still enjoyable due to its characters and witty dialogue, which add a ton of humor to a light adventure. Even to a casual fan of the artform, it's apparent why this anime is well loved. Naturally, a well-loved anime with even the barest of adventure elements has a good chance of being turned into a video game, and that's what happened with Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time. As with a number of anime games, however, the execution could have been much better.

In Little Witch Academia, you play the role of Akko, a student at the Luna Nova Magical Academy who's studying to become a witch but failing miserably at that task. It's the start of her first summer vacation at the school, but a mishap with broken cleaning supplies means that she's being punished with arranging the books in the library instead. While dozing off on the job, a mysterious ghost puts down a mystical book in front of her, and a secret passageway opens up once the book is placed on the shelf. It turns out that the hidden room is the Horologium Chamber, a place that has put a magic spell on Akko and her friends that causes them to repeat that first day of summer vacation forever. Fearing expulsion for possibly entering a forbidden room, Akko and her friends need to find a way to make time stop repeating itself.

The same things that make the anime so beloved show up in the game as well. All of the characters remain likeable, and the dialogue reinforces those character traits. The jokes hit the mark more often than not, and the story is breezy enough that players won't have trouble following along. It also helps that the presentation matches up closely with the anime. The fully animated cut scenes are done by Studio Trigger, but the rest of the graphics match that style closely, even if some of the animation doesn't feel as smooth as it should be. Seeing Akko flail around while panicking in dialogue sequences is always humorous, and it's good that the dialogue sequences have something emotive for the characters rather than static pictures. Some epic tunes are played at all times, even during the more whimsical segments.

Little Witch Academia is split between two major mechanics. The first is actual exploration, as you must find keys around the campus to unlock the various dungeons in the Horologium Chamber. Aside from finally being able to check out the grounds of Luna Nova, you'll have to sneak around certain parts of the campus to avoid the gaze of some of the teachers, and you'll also have a chance to eavesdrop on conversations, which is made more enjoyable by the accompanying animations.

There are a number of things that make the exploration less than enjoyable, though. The first is the bad navigation system. The minimap provides no direction about where you should go for your next objective. The main map fails to do this any better; it's too difficult to make sense of the legends used for navigating each floor. What will get you the most is the constant need for backtracking on a rather sizeable campus. Just about every mission to get keys will have you talking to people at the farthest reaches of the campus, and you'll have to dart across it again to engage in fetch quests. By the time you get to your third mission of this type, the experience is tedious rather than enjoyable. It also doesn't help that you need to use a potion on save spots the first time out in order to activate them. You're fine with the first free potion, but it's infuriating that you can't access the second save point until much, much later.

The second main component of the game is the combat, which mixes in RPG components with what is essentially a brawler in the same vein as Double Dragon. You have a party of three fighting against enemies using various magic spells as you travel from room to room in each dungeon, clearing them out before you finally fight the boss. All participating party members get XP from the fight, and leveling up provides points that can be used to bolster stats or power up magical abilities.

The RPG elements aren't too bad. Levels are rife with loot, but don't expect too much variation between the items you get. XP gains are generous, and the game allows you to redistribute your character stats whenever you feel like it. The only complaint is that the menus can feel cumbersome to navigate, and you'll often forget about powering up characters since it initially doesn't seem to make much of a difference.

The combat is where things fall apart due to several different components not working as intended. The first one is the fact that the game requires you to be on the exact plane of existence as the enemy for your hits to connect. Almost all of the time, you being off by one pixel is enough for the hit to whiff by an opponent. If you're lucky enough to hit the enemy, the feedback for the hit is almost nonexistent. Aside from numbers flying in the air, the enemy seems to not be affected by your attacks; you don't see them flinch or even blink a different color.

The issues with the combat system mean that you'll rely on your AI companions to do the work for you. While they can hit the enemy often enough to be reliable, they have problems of their own. At times, they'll attack nothing or use their best attack for the weakest foes. They'll consistently run into traps. To be fair, the enemies do the same, which means that the only challenge you'll have is from the bosses. It isn't comforting to know that they're all terrible at their jobs.

For those wondering, there is a multiplayer mode, but the game never informs you of that fact, and it's not easy to find where you need to be to make this happen. It takes about a good hour or two before you can get the chance to go to the underground portion of the Luna Nova Tower, and it's here where you can choose between Underground Labyrinth or Phantom Mirror. The former is a survival mode setting where you can choose the reward but need at least two other people locally in tow. The latter is a versus mode where you go online to engage in a match with other people's witch teams. Considering how hidden of a feature this is, it isn't surprising that there's no one playing online, so it's safe to consider multiplayer as a very small part of the package.

It becomes readily apparent that those who will enjoy Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time the most will be existing fans of the series. The storyline and new animations are worth checking out, especially since the second season is still a ways out. Even then, they may be hard-pressed to deal with both the tedious exploration and the unreliable combat. For them, the game may be worth getting for cheap. For everyone else, this should be a pass.

Score: 5.5/10

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