Review – Aka

I remember first seeing Aka during the Nintendo Indie World Showcase and immediately thinking, “this looks like the perfect, easy-going, slice of life type of game that I could use during the chaos of the holiday season”. To be fair, my instincts were mostly correct, as Aka from Cosmic Gatto is in fact a cathartic, relaxing adventure… in most regards. I will say that after playing it, Aka is not quite the game I expected from the trailers. For good or bad remains to be seen.

Naya

Be prepared to have your heart ripped out right from the beginning.

In Aka, you play as a red panda who has just returned from the war, and who is looking to move on with his life. He gets an invite to from one of his war buddies to come and stay at his home in Pine Island, which Aka agrees to. Once there, he gets his own home and can begin exploring the rest of the island. Aka is a nonlinear game, so finding his path to inner peace is up to you.

Aka Dragon Mother

While exploring, you can discover the mother of dragons!

For the most part, Aka is a slice of life game. You can build furniture for your home, create a garden to harvest crops, and scour the island to find resources for more upgrades. However, that’s not all Aka has to offer. Along the way, you’ll discover several inhabitants that need help. You can choose to help them or ignore them, but I highly suggest aiding them whenever you can. Doing so will reveal more about Aka’s past and will help him confront his inner demons. This is what surprised me the most about the game, it’s much deeper and more melancholy than you might think from simply watching the trailer. One of the reveals early on actually had me a bit misty-eyed.

Shy Ghost

The story behind the Shy Ghost is absolutely heartbreaking.

It’s graphics are simplistic, but this works just fine within the cutesie nature of the game. I did experience some occasional framerate dips, but they weren’t anything too drastic. Aka‘s sound design is well done, with cartoony sound effects that fit the feel of the game. It also has a soundtrack that fits the mellow tone of the game well, and even has some woeful melodies for the more somber moments.

Unfortunately, this is where my praise has to end, because Aka‘s gameplay mechanics leave little to be desired. Controlling Aka is often times frustrating, especially when you’re trying to carefully place an item or work your garden. The cursor tends to have a mind of its own, making trying to create a symmetrical garden or carefully planned crop placement near impossible. The isometric angle can almost make it difficult to see where certain edges are, causing Aka to fall of ledges fairly frequently.

Aka Gardening

You have no idea how long it took me to get this garden symmetrical.

Not only is it difficult to control, but Aka is also absolutely rife with bugs and glitches. I could forgive some of the other issues, but at a certain point, Aka becomes literally unplayable. I was kicked out of the game several times while just exploring Pine Island. Then when trying to leave it after creating a boat, the game would freeze and kick me out every single time.

I tried uninstalling it and reinstalling it to see if that would fix the issue, but it there was no change. I even tried waiting until after the game was officially released to see of there would be a Day One patch, but nothing has addressed this issue. There are three other islands to explore within Aka, but I’ve been unable to see any besides Pine Island. This pains me, but I can only review what little of the game I’ve actually been able to play. 

Aka Map of the Islands

Unfortunately, this screen is where my journey ended.

Aka is a big disappointment for me, because I was actually really loving what I was able to play of the game until it essentially broke. It’s far more than just a casual slice of life sim, especially if you choose to help the other inhabitants you come across. I really wanted to see what the rest of Aka had in store, but at this point, I can’t. I can’t in good conscience recommend this game in its current state, even if it feels so promising. As of right now, I have to say to hold off until the game breaking bugs are all patched before picking it up.

Graphics: 7.0

An adorable, albeit very simplistic art style. The framerate can slip a bit at times, but it’s nothing too terrible.

Gameplay: 3.0

The controls are often unpredictable and frustrating, especially when trying to place an object or create a garden. It’s also rife with bugs and glitches.

Sound: 7.0

Its soundtrack isn’t anything terribly memorable, but serves to fit the tone of the game well while you’re playing it.

Fun Factor: 3.0

Aka turned out to be a lot deeper of a game than its cutesie art design might suggest. It’s a shame that it becomes literally unplayable past a certain point.

Final Verdict: 4.5

Aka is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Aka was provided by the publisher.