It goes without saying that many of the adult gamers of today grew up primarily in the 1980’s and 90’s, me included. What this means is that there’s an entire catalogue of memorable pop culture icons that permeate our nostalgia and memories. So imagine the excitement many of us heard when Saturday Morning RPG was announced, a game that took gameplay cues from the likes of Paper Mario and everything else from the childhood hearts of American Gen-X-ers. The question is, is the game worth not touching that dial for?
Everything about Saturday Morning RPG’s presentation evokes the thoughts and memories of a TV show. Hell, it’s in the title. The game is split up into three “episodes,” or tiny little arcs. Each one takes no more than a few hours to complete, making for a pretty easy title to pick up and play. Each episode utilizes different tropes and trends of 80’s programming, with riffs on everything from Transformers, Care Bears, and even every Saturday morning high school show you’ve ever seen.
Each episode centralizes around the adventures of Marty as he stumbles through the joke laden misadventures of his life, most of which revolving around the mysterious Hood Army (often in disguise). The writing and dialogue are snappy and decidedly self-aware. There are definitely a lot of wink-wink-nudge-nudge style jokes and even meme based humor, but wherein most games, this may feel a little forced, really does help to give Satruday Morning RPG its charm.
Fortunately, the same charm also transfers over to the game’s turn based battles, where Marty attacks with transforming semi-trucks, rhinestone covered gloves, flaming basketballs, and Fruit Stripe zebra stampedes (did you know they actually still sell that stuff?!). The game’s goal is comedy first and foremost, so be prepared to come into it expecting to get more from the story than the gameplay.
The mechanics of the battle system should be very familiar to anyone who played Super Mario RPG or any of its spiritual successors (Paper Mario, Penny Arcade Adventures, Costume Quest, etc). The battles are mainly turn-based, but when the time comes to strike your enemies, players take an active role with carefully timed button presses throughout fights. Timed meters, button mashing, and QTE prompts make up most of this combat, but oddly enough, the moves on their own aren’t really all that powerful. Instead, players are encouraged to power Marty up in the middle of fights with one of three mini-games to power up moves up to tenfold—a button mashing one, a rapid fire meter, and a simple auto-charge for the lazy fighters out there.Charging up special moves is the key to success in battle.
While the ability to power yourself up at will is greatly appreciated, doing so counts as a turn. What this means is that every other turn will be spent doing one of these power up moves, which feels more tedious than anything else. It would’ve been nice if the charge could be maintained as long as players managed to defend themselves in battle well or keep high scoring combos going. Instead, it just feels like you have half as many moves as you should since many of the moves can be downright useless without being powered up.
Ultimately, I came away from the game finding the fights extremely tedious and taxing on my hands. In other games like this, keeping players involved simply comes down to few extra well timed button presses, but for Saturday Morning RPG, it means maintaining that charge and constantly mashing buttons and spinning analog sticks. It’s cool and it’s cute, but I definitely found myself constantly feeling a little bit of fatigue after each fight.
The game is easy enough though, that if players are really interested in sticking out the game just for the story, battles can pretty much be coasted through and feel like a bit of fluff just to get to the more varied parts of the game.…and all thanks to your handy dandy Trapper Keeper.
Exploring the overworld is pretty enjoyable, with tons of characters to interact with who always have something to say. Alongside that are treasures, side-quests, easter eggs and even mini dungeons to tackle for some bonuses. The visuals of the game seem to lack a bit of the polish it could really use to pop, that mostly stems from the choice to make characters low-fi pixel sprites and backgrounds full 3D. The end result is something very similar to what Paper Mario achieves, just with a bit more of a DIY look to it.
When it comes down to it, Saturday Morning RPG is a pretty nifty little game with those with an affinity for the nostalgic. The game even sports a soundtrack by composers Vince DiCola and Kenny Meriedeth, who both sport a pedigree of work for many classic 80’s shows and movies, including DuckTales and Rocky IV. There are enough references to keep those in the know laughing, but the gameplay feels more like a distraction than the main event.Yeah, I got nothing for this one.
Without the charm of the humor and the references, it might otherwise be a little difficult to hold some players’ attention with gameplay alone, but fortunately it’s easy and funny enough to be worth picking up every once in a while. Plus each episode is fairly short, so don’t expect too much of a time investment. If you really enjoy the combat, there are some extra arena modes to give the game some shelf life after the three episodes are complete.
So if Saturday Morning RPG looks like something up to you speed, it’s fairly worth it at its low asking price but there’s not too much in here to make it an absolute must play; not unless you feel like taking a virtual trip to your childhood nostalgia.
[+Funny dialogue and references abound] [+Short length is perfect for the game] [+Battles keep player actively engaged at all times] [+Pretty good music] [-Battles can be a little tedious and taxing at times] [-Visual style is a little rough]