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   Saturday Morning RPG - Review  

Ernest Cline Would Be Proud
by Sam Wachter

PLATFORM
PS4
BATTLE SYSTEM
3
INTERACTION
3
ORIGINALITY
4
STORY
3
MUSIC & SOUND
3
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
Less than 20 Hours
OVERALL
3.5/5
+ Cleverly produced 80's pop culture references
+ Episodic forumla works perfectly
+ Interesting use of the PlayStation 4 controller
- Easy to use up all abilities in one battle
- Bogus turn-order
- References can be a bit too over-the-top
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Many of us who grew up in the 80's and 90's had a Saturday morning ritual: grabbing a big bowl of cavity-inducing cereal and watching cartoons until it was lunchtime. From He-Man and G.I Joe to Transformers and Care Bears, these were the programs that lit up our Saturday mornings, providing hours of memorable entertainment. In Mighty Rabbit's Saturday Morning RPG, we have a game that attempts to play on childhood nostalgia, and does a pretty fine job of it, too.

   Saturday Morning RPG spans five hour-long episodes, with the player taking on the role of Marty, a seemingly normal guy just trying to get through high school and win the heart of Samantha, his crush. However, Captain Hood and his cronies have taken over Shadow Valley, and Marty is granted a magical notebook with mystical scratch-and-sniff stickers to defeat evil foes and save the day. Each episode draws inspiration from popular cartoons, with story beats that play like a thirty-minute episode of a program. It helps that a lot of the writing is over-the-top and crazy, and it makes for a funny and cheeky experience. The writing never has the chance to outstay its welcome, and it makes for a fun, fast and condensed experience.

   However, much like Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, a novel that is oversaturated in 80's pop culture reference, the same can be said about Saturday Morning RPG. Even though the writing is great, and the subtle allusions to Saturday morning cartoons are there, references can sometimes go too far and as such start to feel phoned in. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing; it's a question of how much tolerance the player has for the references or how much is too many.

   Combat borrows elements from both JRPGs and popular culture. When Marty enters an encounter, he must first scratch stickers that offer bonuses towards the battle. Stickers can be collected throughout the episodes, offering different stat boosts such as better accuracy or more health, as well as negative bonuses towards enemies as well. In order to scratch the stickers, the player must either use the PlayStation 4 touch pad or shake the left thumbstick as quickly as possible, as there is only a small amount of time to collect all five bonuses before the battle begins.

It is important to have a stylish trapper keeper. Not like those <i>Dawson Creek</i> ones that are out for global domination. It is important to have a stylish trapper keeper. Not like those Dawson Creek ones that are out for global domination.

   Once stickers have been scratched, combat begins. Battles are standard turn-based affairs where Marty can either use a basic attack, a special skill, or charge up his multiplier by using batteries. By having Marty charge up, it allows his attacks to hit much harder. Battery power is limited, but it does recharge when it is not in use. While the majority of battles are quite easy given how simple it is to build the multiplier, the turn order in Saturday Morning RPG complicates things. It feels random at times, and there doesn't seem to be an easy explanation for why Marty gets one attack, while an enemy can have up to two or more turns before the player gets another move.

   Special skills come in the form of 80's and 90's nostalgia items, such as the white "Michael Jackson Moonwalk" glove, Laser Disks, and the Care Bear Stare, just to name a few. The majority of these special attacks can be purchased through vending machines or found during exploration, but they have limited usage. Like the stickers, there's a ton of special skills to locate, and there's a lot of variety in their handling, though some work better than others. Before a special skill can be used, a minigame is played and some of them are much easier to understand than others. Part of the issue is that the game doesn't tell the player what the rules to the minigame actually are. Sometimes text will appear on the screen saying PRESS, but it doesn't actually state which button the player needs to be pressing. Having more visual cues, especially for the minigames, definitely would be quite beneficial.

   What also would help is having more uses for the special skills. Boss battles can get quite challenging considering it's so easy to use up the special skills quickly. The weaker skills tend to have more uses, but do less damage, and vice versa. However, it gets to levels where the player will spend far more time utilizing Marty's basic punch skill, and it can draw these battles out.

CARE BEAR STARE! CARE BEAR STARE!

   Despite these issues, the combat system in Saturday Morning RPG is solid and fast. There is a lot of diversity in stickers and special skills, and it allows for so much experimentation on the player's part. The game does a fantastic job of encouraging players to give every new sticker and special skill a whirl. Having such a plethora of stickers and skills means there's endless amounts of mixing and matching to keep battles fresh. There are also a number of challenges that players can complete during battle simply by consuming different items.

   Graphically, Saturday Morning RPG fits its namesake, offering a cute style that is both simplistic and charming. It does a great job of exemplifying a lot of the cartoons it attempts to mimic through its art style. The soundtrack is quite good, with a number of hummable tunes, again playing to the overall aesthetics of the game. Synth instruments are well used and dominate the soundtrack to provide that 80's charm and it makes for good ear candy.

   While Saturday Morning RPG won't blow RPGamers away with its overall presence, it has a ton of heart and soul. Within my five-hour playthrough, I found myself taking loads of screenshots that I shared on Twitter, simply because the writing and presentation have some clever and thoughtful moments. Sure, the game is easy and somewhat imperfect, but there's so much love that went into the making of it, and this really shines through from beginning to end.

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