Review – The Academy: The First Riddle

Pine Studios, the developer behind the hit Faraway series, is back with a brand new game. Another great addition to the Myst-like escape puzzle series, you might ask? The answer is no, although there are still puzzles abound. This time around, they’ve come out with a brand new IP heavily inspired by Harry Potter. If you’re a fan of puzzles and the Harry Potter series, then prepare to lose yourself in The Academy: The First Riddle.

The story begins with our protagonist, Sam, being accepted into the titular Academy. Much like in Harry Potter, it is a school for the magically inclined. The starry-eyed freshman packs his things and sets off for the Academy to learn the mystical ways of the arcane arts. But things are not as simple as they appear.

The Academy: The First Riddle

A prowler in the dead of night.

I will warn you that the pacing in The Academy: The First Riddle does start off pretty slow. You arrive, do some puzzles, meet your awkward or bullying classmates, do some puzzles, get a layout of the grounds, and do some puzzles. At first the story feels almost shoehorned in, like they were trying to come up with a reason for Sam to continue doing puzzles. However, occasionally something bizarre happens and you learn that there’s more going on than meets the eye. Then near the end of the first chapter, you come to realize that the school has many dark secrets that are waiting to be discovered.

Story aside, The Academy: The First Riddle is really all about its puzzles. I was pleasantly surprised to learn almost immediately that the puzzles featured in this game are widely varied. Not only that, but they offer a fair amount of challenge and many of them will force you to think outside the box. Many of the puzzles will try to trick you with their wording or your brain might naturally want to make things seem more complex than they really are. It’s refreshing to play a game that’s often times actually as intelligent as it thinks it is.

The Academy: The First Riddle

This takes me back to the good old days of Minesweeper.

As far as gameplay, you’ll control Sam through the Academy and often interact with other students and teachers. Aside from the game’s main story puzzle objectives, there are plenty of other side quests you can find by simply talking to other people and keeping a keen eye out for other points of interest. The controls and framerate are both very smooth, as this isn’t the most technologically demanding game out there.

My one issue is that sometimes when you come across a puzzle that requires you to place a marker on your answer, the game doesn’t always register your answer unless the marker is in the exact spot they had designed.  The problem with this is that it’s not always clear how you’re suppose to position your marker according to their standards. Sometimes you’re suppose to cover the area with the whole thing, while other times you’re suppose to have just the point of it touching the top. This lead to several missed solutions that were even more frustrating because I knew what the answer was suppose to be from the start.

The Academy: The First Riddle

Somehow they made unpacking your luggage a fun activity.

Visually, The Academy: The First Riddle won’t win any awards for groundbreaking realism or incredible art design, but the game is clean and vibrant. The animations can be a bit stiff, but that’s forgivable in a game that mainly focuses on puzzles and does those well. The sound design is similarly decent without being particularly remarkable. There’s no voice acting, but the sound effects are done well enough. The music is appropriately fanciful, but there’s only one song. That means that if you’re going to play for a solid amount of time in one sitting, you’ll eventually grow tired of hearing it.

Polar Bear

The stiff animations are unBEARable. I’ll see myself out.

I was eager to play The Academy: The First Riddle after seeing the trailer. As a huge fan of both puzzle games and Harry Potter, I’m definitely a part of their target audience. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how creative and clever the puzzles would be. As of now The Academy: The First Riddle is only available on mobile devices and PC, but it will be releasing to consoles very soon. Due to the nature of the focus on puzzles, I would say that this would be most at home on your mobile device or Nintendo Switch for short brain flexing bursts. Regardless of platform, The Academy: The First Riddle is a delight not only for fans of Harry Potter, but for any lover of the puzzle genre.


Graphics: 7.0

The visuals aren’t mind blowing and the animations can be a bit stiff, but it’s clean and vibrant.

Gameplay: 7.0

Controlling Sam is very smooth and the framerate is steady, but puzzles involving placing a marker over your answer doesn’t always work well.

Sound: 7.0

No voice acting, but the music is delightfully whimsical. However, there is only one song and if you’re going through an extensive play session, it can get tiresome.

Fun Factor: 9.0

The story starts off bland, but does become intriguing by the end of the first chapter. The puzzles are well varied and constantly make you think outside the box.

Final Verdict: 8.0

The Academy: The First Riddle is available now on PC, iOS. and Android.

Reviewed on PC with an i7-9700k, RTX 2070, and 16gb RAM.

A copy of The Academy: The First Riddle was provided by the publisher.