Motion Twin's "free to play" turn-based strategy RPG Teacher Story (which requires a free account) is one of those games that you just want to grab and shake a little. Maybe stage an A&E style intervention. "Why do you have such restrictive timers that lead to aggressive monetization?" you whisper tearfully, laying a hand on your computer screen the way you would touch the face of a brilliant but self-destructive invalid. Because despite the demand for hauling in other players if you don't want to spend money or wait around Farmville-style, Teacher Story is a gorgeous, fun, funny game with glimpses of serious cleverness. As the name suggests, you play a teacher who's trying to stuff his classes full of knowledge, but first needs to literally beat the stupidity out of them to get through. ... well, not literally, since the "combat skills" are more things like impassioned speeches, pop quizzes, and knowing how to manage your class' misbehavior, but you get the idea.
Each student has blocks of colour above their heads... grey blocks are boredom that typically need to be broken through first, while the red represents stupidity, or ignorance if you prefer a more PC term. Use your skills to get through to them and earn experience points, dealing with negative status effects and unique personality traits along the way. Each class is its own battle and has a timer (in the bottom right hand corner) that decreases with every turn, forcing you to think carefully and strategically about how you play, while the red gloop in the bottom left is your self control, and if either of those runs out, you lose. It gets more complex as you play, and a lot more challenging. Knowing how to make various status effects work in your favour, as well as organizing each class to get the most out of area of effect attacks or those that impart special bonuses, becomes the key to victory. As you hammer through students's skulls, you earn experience points to level up, which allows you to choose upgrades or new abilities to your poor beleaguered professor.
Sound good so far? Well, here's the thing. After you've finished a class, you have nearly five real time hours before you can play another. If you want to play right away, you spend your budget, and since you only earn a paltry amount for each victory compared to how much you have to spend to advance time or buy items, you'll quickly either need to nag people to sign up with your link so you earn a referral bonus, or pay real cash. Additionally, your self control does not replenish on its own after each class, so you either have to buy items using your budget to refill it, choose an action that takes fifteen real time hours to refill two thirds, or hope that the free actions that allow you to fill a tiny amount of self-control (usually only four points) will be enough to make it through the next class so your time isn't wasted.
Aside from the push for pay, Teacher Story also suffers a bit from other issues like typos, and some screens that have not yet been translated to English. It also would have been nice to be able to create our own teacher from a few cosmetic choices, rather than be stuck with one scowling bro who seems a single dab of hair gel away from Flock of Seagulls. Teacher Story is, in short, a game with an enormous amount of potential where the fun part, the actual gameplay, is being held back by the restrictions of its free-to-play style model. Why am I telling you about it then? Because in spite of that, Teacher Story is a gorgeous little game, packed with style and humour, expressive art and character animation. The gradual increase in class difficulties allows for, or rather remands, much more strategic combat, while at the same time remaining friendly to the casual player. It's a game I would dearly love to see succeed, and all it would really take would be for it to ease up on the time restrictions a bit. It's still worth a look even if you don't plan to pay a dime and don't mind playing for only a few minutes at a time, and its professional presentation and style makes it stand head and shoulders above virtually every other game in the free-to-play market. A game can be free-to-play and still be a success, like Echo Bazaar/Fallen London, and I sincerely hope Teacher Story gets there.