I've already missed the deadline for this review.

Anybody who's ever played a Kairosoft management game - such as Hot Springs Story or press darling Game Dev Story - will sympathise.

I started writing with plenty of time to spare. But then I decided I needed to spend a bit more time growing my school up a star rating (that Dating Spot was expensive to construct).

And so it went on.

Back to school

Pocket Academy - the first of Kairosoft’s English language games not to contain 'Story' in its title - is all about running your own surreal school.

You get 11 years to get a small and fairly barren institution to the top of the league tables, producing the country’s future doctors and politicians. All the while you need to balance the books and expand across the world map with ever more advanced facilities.

Like the current UK educational environment, crashing and burning in Pocket Academy is surprisingly easy to do.

Partly this is down to the ‘snowball’ effect that all Kairosoft management games have, in which the difficulty nose-dives as you grow your business (or in this case, educational facility).

But mainly it’s because of the sheer abstract nature of the game.

Teachers are rarely seen teaching, students seem more busy with the crops than class (crops?), and the tuition fees could do with some heavy-handed government reforms given that they barely cover half the costs.

The help screens go some way to help with matters, but a more detailed tutorial wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Pay your way

Get over the inevitable bankruptcy of your first school and tighten your money belt, however, and Pocket Academy will grab you just as much as Game Dev Story did last year.

The subject matter is far more approachable than Hot Springs Story's, while the hundreds of neat little touches - like seeing relationships between students blossom, or the most popular student trying to persuade others to join in with one of the yearly festivals - will make you smile.

You'll also feel a degree of attachment to your little people that wasn't there to the same extent in previous Kairosoft games. The little characters who gradually go up through the years and figure out what they want to be in life almost have a Sims-like quality about them, despite only the first student and high school name being customisable.

School’s out for summer

It does take a while before you reach that point, however. As in earlier games, the pace at the start is slow and it can feel a little too ‘hands-off’ at first (especially if you don’t want to blow all your cash on research and staff).

Give Pocket Academy time to develop, though, and there’s very little chance you’ll be able to escape until the school shuts its gates.

The personality of the game shines from the screen through the character reactions and speech bubbles, while seeing your institution physically expanding with its increasing wealth has an almost Theme Hospital feel.

Multiple starting points, with their own mix of students and starting positions and an unlockable ‘fast’ speed option, also mean that replaying the game is a more attractive prospect this time around.

All in all, Pocket Academy is the most charming and possibly the most playable of Kairosoft's library so far.

Now you'll have to excuse me. I have to watch the graduation ceremony of my third years. They grow up so fast these days.

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