In a sea of farming and crafting simulators, having a novel look or idea can actually assist a sport stand out. Aka stars an lovable purple panda and incorporates a cozy, painting-like artwork type, which was greater than sufficient to seize my curiosity after I heard about its crowdfunding marketing campaign earlier this yr. Sadly, the lovable design is about all Aka has going for it as a result of the remainder of the expertise is unengaging, clunky, and quick. These hoping for extra could very nicely discover themselves Turning Purple.

Aka begins with nearly no setup, plopping you on a abandoned battlefield the place the titular character has determined he has had sufficient of conflict and decides to depart for an island to begin a brand new life on the invitation of an previous buddy. This nice conflict Aka is getting away from is central to the “story,” in case you can name it that, as a result of the principle questline includes discovering and serving to ghosts from Aka’s time on the entrance. Once you full a ghost’s quest, Aka remembers who they’re, and also you see a brief cutscene that recounts how they died. The hand-drawn art work for these scenes is beautiful, however the tales are so barebones: the sport spends so little time explaining the conflict, Aka’s function in it, or these folks so expensive to him that it’s extremely tough to really feel any connection to the characters or the narrative. Truthfully, calling it a story is virtually a lie as a result of the sport doesn’t expend the hassle to inform any kind of coherent story.

Aka screenshot of main character Aka, a red panda, standing in a village square, near stairs, a wall with a light bulb drawn on it, and an alligator townsperson.
The hand-drawn look of the graphics might be the sport’s greatest characteristic.

To be truthful, that’s not a dealbreaker in and of itself. In spite of everything, loads of video games haven’t any story in anyway and are nonetheless enjoyable to play. However, and you’ll in all probability guess the place I’m going with this, Aka isn’t a type of video games. The core gameplay loop includes working round 4 small, isometric islands, selecting up primarily repetitive quests — do away with traps, clear away previous ruins, chop down useless timber — whereas gathering or rising supplies to craft a small assortment of things. This can be a little attention-grabbing the primary couple of occasions you do it however turns into boring lengthy earlier than you “end” the sport and see the credit. 

A part of the issue is that there’s little path or steerage in Aka. Outdoors of a foundational tutorial at first of the sport, you might be largely left to your personal units to search out issues to do and to learn to do them. That kind of freedom can really feel thrilling in a bigger sandbox sport, however right here it simply feels aimless. There isn’t even all that a lot to do within the first place, and due to the virtually nonexistent story and forgettable characters, you don’t really feel significantly motivated to do greater than essential to “beat” the sport. As an example, you’ll be able to craft a couple of items of furnishings to embellish your own home, however as soon as the novelty of enjoying inside decorator wears off, you understand that you don’t have any cause to be making any of these things since you don’t actually have any cause to be in your house after the start of the sport. Equally, you must do some mild farming to get a few of the supplies you want for quests, however you don’t have any different cause to interact with the system. You may’t promote your crops, and you’ll’t construct a farming village or any of the stuff you may count on to do in video games with related setups. 

Determining the best way to do issues in Aka can be a problem as a result of the sport doesn’t sufficiently clarify its fundamental methods. For instance, there’s a collectible card sport you’ll be able to play, however except you go to the proper island and discuss to the proper NPC, you might be merely thrust right into a match and have to determine the best way to play on the fly. Once more, this sort of discover-as-you-go gameplay might be enjoyable, however right here it simply appears like an oversight. Working example, I couldn’t determine the best way to “beat” the sport till I watched a YouTube video, as a result of the sport doesn’t make it in any respect clear the place the final ghost is. I’m not saying the sport wanted to carry my hand, nevertheless it positively wanted to signpost issues lots higher.

Aka screenshot of main character Aka, a red panda, watering a row of plants, some of which have water drop icons over them.
The important thing to farming is planting complementary crops close to one another, however good luck getting issues to go the place you need with the clunky controls.

 Even the controls in Aka want some work. Putting crafted objects and farming are significantly irritating actions. Aka targets the house instantly in entrance of him, however as a result of he can transfer in any path in an basically isometric grid, getting him to face the proper means and thus goal the proper sq. might be deceptively tough. He additionally feels a bit of floaty when transferring round, so that you’ll typically assume you’re pointing him in the proper path solely to have him overshoot or find yourself adjoining to the place you anticipated. Like nearly the whole lot else on this sport, the controls technically work, however they really feel extraordinarily clunky. I performed with a controller, so I don’t know if a keyboard and mouse would enhance issues. However then once more, this sport can also be on Change, the place a controller is your solely possibility, so there’s actually no excuse.

As if all that wasn’t sufficient, Aka can also be quick and glitchy. You may in all probability “beat” the sport in a single sitting, and it took a slower participant like me just a few classes to see the whole lot the sport has to supply. I additionally encountered a good quantity of bugs throughout my playthrough. Some have been fastened with a restart, however others persevered, and one appeared to render a quest unfinishable, although fortunately it was not one of many ghost quests required to see the tip credit. The developer is conscious of a few of these bugs, so I think about they are going to be patched, however they’re arduous to disregard as a result of the remainder of the sport is comparatively weak.

After all, even a weak sport may nonetheless be price it for the proper value. Aka isn’t significantly costly, however I nonetheless discover myself unable to suggest it as a consequence of its many points. Ultimately, I ask myself whether or not I might be glad if I had purchased the sport for myself as an alternative of receiving a overview code. Sadly, the reply is not any.

You can take a nap on an enormous capybara, although, so there’s that.

Aka screenshot of a red panda curled up asleep on top of a giant dozing capybara on a beach.


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