One of the great things about the roguelite genre is that it’s incredibly flexible in such a way that you can absolutely combine it with other genres and it could potentially be an entirely new experience. You have platformers, twin-stick shooters, FPS, sports, deckbuilders, and even rhythm games. Hell, a roguelite by the name of Peglin was released a little under a year ago that is inspired by Peggle, but with roguelite elements, and it was a hit!
One of the genres that I thought synergizes well with roguelite elements but, oddly enough, hasn’t gotten that many released games under it is the bullet hell shoot ’em up genre. I’m not talking about dungeon-based bullet hell games like Enter the Gungeon. I’m talking about the traditional scrolling bullet hell shoot ’em ups that were so popular back in the arcade days, like Strikers 1945, the Darius games, etc. There are only two of them that I could think of that have a bit of a following: The Void Rains Upon Her Heart and Steredenn, and it’s sad to admit that even those two aren’t really that popular.
I’m not really into oversexualized anime stuff, but when I saw the trailer for Black Academy, and beyond the TnA, I saw a potentially great scrolling shoot ’em up roguelite, and I’m extremely ecstatic that I was right!
Old and New School Combined
As mentioned earlier, the game follows the old-school formula of a traditional shoot ’em up, complete with side-scrolling, huge bullets, and a boss on each level. What makes it even better is the modernization of a tried and true formula by adding beautiful hand-drawn art instead of pixelated ones. I love pixel art as much as the next person, but I think that going with hand-drawn art fits well with the game’s concept.
Of course, the roguelite elements also count as making the game more modern. The bosses on every map may be the same, but the map itself is procedurally generated. Add in the permanent progression, and you have an excellent mix of an old-school shmup feel as well as new-school visuals and gameplay.
Following the Curriculum
The game’s story revolves around female students that are also magical girls, studying in an academy that is potentially run by the devil himself. The girls aim to stop the devil and go back to class the next day.
In the beginning, you are met with a beautiful cinematic that encapsulates this story. I must admit that this intro had some music cuts that should’ve been handled better, but it got its point across and continues to do so when you’re in the actual game. Every first time you’re able to reach an area, you’ll be met with a series of dialogues that, may not affect the gameplay in the least, but it is still one of the game’s nice-to-haves.
Also, the game follows the “school” concept to a tee with its enemy design: soda cans, to megaphones, and even staplers! Of course, the bosses are female students because why the hell not?
Certain images may be divisive
The game is tagged with “sexual content” and for good reason. While it doesn’t go over the line with nudity or the like, it tiptoes the line with lewd poses of anime girls. These images may be few and far in between (I’ve really only seen these pictures when you beat the area bosses), but it’s still there and could cause some players to be turned off. For some who do like it, well, it’s a huge bonus for you aside from the awesome gameplay!
As mentioned earlier, I’m not really a fan of these images myself, but I chose to look beyond that and focus on the gameplay which is really good. The others though may not be as forgiving.
Throughout the time I’ve been playing Black Academy, I’ve encountered a lot of instances where I told myself “I wish ___ is in the game or added in the future”. The good news is that none of these shortcomings were game-breaking, and shouldn’t be a cause for players not liking the game.
The biggest issue I have with the game is the fact that its limited content. However, given the fact that it just got released last week and is still in early access, I could let this pass, and I’m sure more content is on its way.
One of the things I love about roguelite games is that if all the stars align and you managed to get all the aces, you have yourself an overpowered monster that cannot and will not be stopped, and you end up steamrolling the entire run. Some people may not like that, but I do, and unfortunately, I don’t think this game has that. You’re only able to use one weapon, and if you have the option to get another one, you’ll have to replace whichever you have. The weapons I’m talking about aren’t that dominant either. The game is more of a side-scrolling shoot ’em up than it is a roguelite, and while I like both genres, you guys know which one I prefer more.
There are other issues the game currently has like Levia being considerably weaker than Rina, not being able to increase the maximum number of hearts in the game (which shoot ’em up aficionados may actually like because it makes the game harder), and the lack of rerolls and weapon variety, but as I said in the beginning, these are not game-breaking and very fixable.
Overall, I believe Black Academy is one of the better releases we’ve had this year. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that some of its art choices, and by that, I meant the lewd pics, could be a divisive factor that could cause players to turn away.
Still, once they see through that, they will realize what an amazing game Black Academy is and could be, and I’m predicting that this game could at least be a hidden gem, or possibly an overnight success.
Black Academy (Early Access)
+ Beautiful visuals and color blending
+ Fairly balanced
+ Levels are well-constructed
+ Decent permanent progression
– Lacks content (for now)
– More of a shmup than a roguelite