🎮 闘う受験生 Entrance Exam (Fighting Test-Taker: Entrance Exam)2023年 12月 10日
闘う受験生 Entrance Exam (Fighting Test-Taker: Entrance Exam) by HesoRider is straight up one of my favorite games of the year. I first played it at the Digital Games Expo last month, and since then I have been playing it at least a couple of times a week. I have yet to actually get accepted into my dream school, but each failure makes me even more determined to get in.
Entrance Exam is a horizontal shooting game made up entirely of single-screen, multi-phase boss fights. That's the mechanical side of things, anyway. The actual game is about you, a cram school student desperate to pass the university entrance exams and secure your future in Japan's work force. The exams for each subject are anthropomorphized danmaku boss fights, with unique attack patterns for each subject. Like in real life, it is not enough to survive these exams; you must also score enough points to clear the school's strict requirements. Failure to do so results in spending another year studying as a rōnin. Can you pass the gauntlet and make it into your university of choice?
There are three schools that you can apply for: one focusing on STEM subjects, one for the humanities, and a national university that covers all subjects. The first two require an average score of 60%, while the national university needs 70% or higher. The STEM school has you taking science, math, and English, and the humanities requires social studies, Japanese, and English. The national university has you doing all five subjects. Once you select the school you want to apply for, that's when the boss rush starts.
Before each fight, you get some great banter with the personified "subject" you are about to battle. Math belittles you for thinking that it's all about memorizing formulas, English mocks you and your little flashcards, and Social Studies laughs when you say that you've been cramming historical events and dates. As a former educator, this made me smile. How many times have I heard my colleagues moan about students who think rote memorization is the same as learning a subject? It's even funnier that this is a danmaku, a genre famous for memorizing when an enemy is about to do a certain array, and the pixel-perfect point on screen you need to be to avoid getting hit.
You start the fight with 100 health and a three-minute timer. You can clear the fight by either surviving the three minutes, or by doing 100 damage to the boss before time runs out. Once you have cleared either of those conditions, the damage you received is subtracted from the damage you dealt to the boss, and that becomes your final score for that subject. At the end of the gauntlet, your average score across the subjects determines whether you get accepted. Even if you fail to get in, you can still add your high score and try to beat it next time.
I am in love with these bosses. Each boss switches through several different and unique attack patterns. Naturally my favorite boss fight is against English, whose attacks are themed around the four tenets of language learning: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. During the Listening phase, an enormous head appears to the left, with damaging English letters flying across the screen and funneled into the ear. The Reading phase is an open book to the right that shoots out huge clumps of letters that you need to dodge. Writing sends pencils "writing" across the top of the screen and raining letters down on you. And Speaking sets up big "HELLO, HOW ARE YOU?" speech bubbles that stream letters at you. Each stage made me laugh out loud when I first saw them. Each subject is like this, chock full of creative and delightful attacks that made me smile.
The hand-drawn artwork is so charming and has a ton of personality. Even simple geometric shapes, like brown lines representing arrows fired by samurai in feudal Japan or green circles representing mitosis, get used in very creative ways. The bold primary colors and art style reminds me so much of old doujinshi games I used to download from websites back in the dial-up days. It has that same scrappy texture while singularly focused on delivering a fun and unique experience. Every screenshot of Entrance Exam drips with love, and reminds me of old school Flash games that were made for the fun of it. The passion this creator obviously has for this game is infectious. It is just a very good time.
I am very glad that I encountered Entrance Exam, and I am going to keep aiming to pass that national university test. This has become my go-to game whenever I need a quick pick-me-up. Please try out Entrance Exam for yourself, and do your best to get into the school of your dreams!