If only my parents had gotten drunk and silly a little earlier, I would have been an 80s child. It’s no issue being born in 1990, I had a tremendous childhood and the TV, movies and music of that time were all terrific. But everything in the 80s was, in my opinion, better. Saturday Morning RPG is a game that only supports my statement by celebrating everything that was great, and crappy, about that magical decade in the most bizarre, original and stupid way possible.
Saturday Morning RPG is the latest role playing title in this pixel art trend that seems to be popular again, brought to life by the small scale team of Mighty Rabbit Studios out of California. Releasing on iOS back in 2012 and steam 2 years later, the game finally makes it’s leap to the PS4 and PSVita with its most complete version up to date. Taking the form of an episodic, turn based RPG, ‘Saturday Morning’ is an overdose of that ole drug called nostalgia that revisits the glorious 1980s with references, gags and cameos that seem lifted straight from an episode of Robot Chicken. The story revolves around protagonist Marty, an everyday American teenager with a boring life not even worth exploring, no seriously, each episode revolves around a dream. Marty is your typical teenager, he’s an out of touch nerd who’s fallen for a girl he can’t have and an Arch Nemesis trying to destroy the world, no prizes for who comes forward to save the day! Armed with a magical trapper keeper (a trendy folder to you and me), Marty must use his new found powers to defeat Commander Hood, save the world and get the girl with a wide variety of weapons and abilities at his finger tips. Saturday Morning RPG certainly seems daft enough, but is it just a cheap way of making out of date jokes and niche nostalgic references? Well of course is it, but underneath all of that it’s actually a bloody belting game.
From the get go, you can tell Mighty Rabbit have tried to create an RPG experience unlike anything else you’ve most likely played. Sure the majority of the game’s content is familiar and expected, however it’s the ways in which it tries to be unique, or at the very least as daft and odd as possible. During the course of each episode you’ll pick up fancy stickers for your trapper keeper, that when scratched before each battle (by rubbing your pad) will affect you and your opponents’ stats. During your adventures you’ll also uncover items you can use in battle that become more powerful the more you level up your magic stat. Each item, whether it be a piece of stationary, toy or snack, will have a particular amount of uses/casts and will vary in speed, power and accuracy. Marty can only equip 5 of these items and with each ability massively varying in effectiveness, a little bit of strategy is actually required here, which makes a refreshing change rather than just attacking with everything you’ve got willy nilly. There are dozens of items lying around to pick-up, to buy in vending machines or to be awarded for completing side quests so it’s always exciting to use your new weapons in battle just to see how stupid they are and how they complement the rest of your arsenal. Marty just hasn’t got his magic and fists to rely on, no he also has a set of batteries which when activated in battle will charge up your next attack. It may act as your typical turn based RPG, however Saturday Morning RPG has made sure its battle system, something you’ll be doing an awful lot, is as barmy and funny as possible. The game’s campaign is split into 5 episodes, each of which seem to get longer than its predecessor, however as good as that initially sounds, neither of these episodes are particularly different to one another in anything except story. As with all RPGs, you except quests and you simply travel the map killing enemies until you get to where you need to go, Saturday Morning’s problem is that aside from slaying seemingly endless waves of enemies there isn’t much to do or really explore. Sure there are amusing side quests to complete, great characters to meet, stupid gags to discover, but all within a fairly restricted map. Don’t get me wrong, each location is wonderful and looks fantastic with plenty of creativity and wit behind it, but you’ll find yourself running around the same bit for almost an entire episode and it gets to the point where you just can’t wait for it to be over, which is a shame for a game which starts off each episode so strongly. The entire game’s soundtrack is excellent and accompanies remarkably well in similar fashion to ‘Hotline Miami’s, but just like the latter, the track listing is pretty small and it’s not long before that piece of music you love becomes incredibly irritable an hour later. As for the game’s visuals, Saturday Morning RPG’s neighbourhood is wonderfully vibrant and alive with a few broad strokes of the pixel art paintbrush, and it’s this neighbourhood that plays the biggest character in the game. The town of Shadow Valley is full of cheap laughs and stupid characters, but every one of these cheap laughs and stupid characters makes this adventure enjoyable and funny from start to finish; each NPC you encounter is their own character that plays a somewhat miniscule part of your story, but a witty and memorable miniscule part at that.
Saturday Morning RPG features an incredibly creative and witty campaign that is brought to life with magical 80’s nostalgia and outrageous TV references. The studio have tried their best to make the traditional, and albeit, boring RPG formula interesting and refreshing again in a similar way to which South Park: The Stick of Truth did. The lack of freedom and exploration does make the campaign feel a tad claustrophobic as other than following the mission objective and completing humourous yet mundane side-quests, there isn’t a whole lot to do. Outside the narrative, you’ll find an arena mode and an option to take on an endless wave mode, however these bonuses don’t really add anything to your playing experience other than say an extra 10 minutes of play time. It looks, sounds and plays fantastically well which is far more than what I expected it to be and perhaps even more surprisingly is that I would strongly recommend this title to everyone. It won’t be winning any awards for innovating the RPG, but it’ll certainly be winning the hearts of all those in their late 20s.