If you're of a certain age, you'll know of a film called Groundhog Day.
In it, Bill Murray plays a character who has to replay the same day over and over again. Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time is pretty much the same. Only with magic. Lots of magic.
A game of two halves
Featuring all the characters from the hit anime series, Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time places you in the shoes of the magically-challenged Akko. Cleaning up the library on the first day of her summer vacation, she stumbles across a hidden chamber that houses not only a strange clock device, but also a sealed door. Of course, Akko and her friends can't help but tinker with their new discoveries, but then find themselves inexplicably living out the same day over and over again.
From then on, Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time is a game of two halves. Wandering around the labyrinthine Luna Nova Academy discovering and completing events is one way to spend your time. Alternatively, you can enter the sealed door to take part in some action RPG dungeon crawling. Ultimately you need to do both to progress the main story, but Chamber of Time gives you the freedom to take things at your own pace.
While exploring Luna Nova Academy, a helpful map alerts you to where events are currently taking place. The event system is all rather vague on the whole though; you'll do a lot of aimless running around to complete a lot of them. Thankfully you can always get a clue as to how to progress the main story by making Akko mumble. In any case, your biggest problem is that completing certain events demands that you visit areas or students at a specific time of the day. Miss the time slot, and you'll have to wait until time comes back around to try again.
Magic also plays a large role in completing events. With Akko's spell-casting skills being below par, however, you'll need to buy potions to successfully complete them. At least initially, anyway. It's mostly obvious when you need to cast magic, thanks to a runic symbol appearing on the floor, but topping up your stock of potions will require you to do some dungeon crawling.
Honestly, Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time's action RPG portion is by far the most entertaining aspect of the game. While dungeons initially seem short and linear, they soon open up into sprawling marathons. While you can head straight to each dungeon's boss if you wish, it pays to explore; after all, there's no point in adventuring if you're not going to amass loot, right? And there's plenty of loot to be found in Chamber of Time.
New equipment can be found for your party of adventurers, boosting their abilities. And dungeons are also the best place to amass the various currencies that allow you to purchase and upgrade items back at the academy. You'll also be wanting to kill as many enemies as you can to maximise the amount of experience you earn. Levelling up grants you with points to allocate among your stats, and as you progress through the game you'll also be able to unlock and enhance a wide range of combat spells.
The combat itself is a little clunky, but it still manages to be quite fun. You have light, medium and heavy attacks, and can also assign quick access to up to six spells. Dispatching enemies is not all down to you though; two other characters back you up. There are many supporting characters to choose from, including Lotte, Sucy, Diana and Amanda. You don't have any control over your companions though, which means that their usefulness is limited. It should also be noted that only the characters in your party gain experience once a dungeon is completed. As a result, you'll find yourself sticking to a select party of three rather than chopping and changing often.
New areas become accessible via the sealed door as you discover keys. Eventually, you'll have quite a range of environments to explore with enemies ranging in difficulty. You can even enter dungeons that are essentially a string of bosses. If played continually, dungeon crawling can become repetitive, sure. But balanced with completing events in Luna Nova Academy, Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time's action RPG elements are thoroughly entertaining.
Faithful to the source
Perhaps the most endearing aspect of Chamber of Time is its presentation. Character models are absolutely wonderful, being very truthful to their anime counterparts. The game's soundtrack is stellar too, setting the perfect mood for exploring and fighting when appropriate. The only thing that lets it down a little is that some areas can look a little bland. I should also mention that all dialogue is spoken in Japanese, which shouldn't be a surprise, but some may find it off-putting.
Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time has its fair share of issues, but overall it's quite an enjoyable adventure. Exploring Luna Nova Academy can sometimes be frustrating until you're able to fast travel throughout it, and trying to complete events can often feel like an uphill struggle against the clock. But as you begin to wrap your head around the game's intricacies and balance dungeon crawling with your academic endeavours, things fall into place. You don't need to be a fan of the anime to enjoy Little With Academy: Chamber of Time either. Thanks to optional catch-up videos that you're prompted to watch when meeting a new character, it's pretty much suitable for all.