Kindergarten takes the barebones of the point-and-click adventure genre, adds some clear roguelite elements, then hints at the influence of movies such as Groundhog Day and even The Shawshank Redemption. It’s a curious mix that works surprisingly well, resulting in a fun game that’s simple to pick up, but hides some serious (and seriously shady) depth.
It’s Monday. As a little boy, you start the day in your bedroom, with little more than your bed and piggy bank for company. After grabbing what cash you think you’ll need for the day, it’s off to kindergarten.
The day is broken up into a number of ‘rooms,' each of which you share with a group of kids. These are more like periods of time, like lunchtime or show-and-tell, in which you can carry out actions, like talking to the other kids and carrying out mini quests. Each action costs an apple to perform. Once your five-apple supply has been exhausted, the school bell rings, and its time to move onto the next room.
In each room, there are some set actions that can be performed, like standing up to the bully kid, or buying something from the one kid who can get hold of ‘damn near anything within reason.' Carrying out these actions rewards you with different unfolding events, and sometimes, even one of the game’s collectibles, the coveted Monstermon cards. Once you’ve gone through all of the rooms, the day ends.
Fine and dandy, you might think. But no.
What quickly becomes apparent even during this first play-through is that there’s something very wrong here. For starters, the next day doesn’t turn out to be Tuesday, as you might expect. Nope. You wake up to Monday morning all over again.
This is where the game’s roguelite side shows itself. Because before you embark on another (the same) exciting day, you realize you’ve accumulated the money and items from your previous adventure. Should you take more money to buy the things you couldn’t afford the first time around?
Arriving at the kindergarten again, you realize this really is the same day. Everything’s repeated. All the kids are in the same places, at the same times. The same discussions will be had all over again. Or not.
Because, as the only one with the knowledge of how today’s events will play out, you can decide to affect things. What if this time, you stick that gum in Lily’s hair, rather than doing the honorable thing and telling her about the plot by her dastardly enemy, Cindy?
It’s not just the peculiar time-distortion that’s the issue, either. There are the reports of missing pupils; the ominous-sounding slop served up at lunch, and, let’s not forget the hugely creepy janitor, whose behavior is never less than suspicious. Oh, and then there’s the constant threat of impending death. There are countless ways making the wrong choice will lead to your untimely demise, only to be promptly resurrected just in time to relive another glorious Monday. Kenny McCormick’s got nothing on this poor kid.
Kindergarten is often funny, sometimes poignant, and always entertaining. The game’s surprisingly engaging mechanics, coupled with its cute pixel art graphics and charming music make an enticing package…even if you really hate Mondays.
Andy is a freelance writer for Game With Your Brain. You can follow him on Twitter.