Michael McConnell, May 9, 2012
Before G.I. Joe and Transformers were big Hollywood franchises, they were poorly animated cartoons. I have a lot of nostalgia for that period, as bad as the animation was at the time. Saturday Morning RPG seeks to channel that nostalgia into an iOS RPG with a heavy dose of self-awareness and snark.
Fans of Earthbound and Contact will find something familiar about the game. The game has two available episodes both centered on Marty, who gets possession of a magic notebook after falling asleep watching some cartoons. The notebook bears a striking resemblance to a Trapper Keeper, and is covered in stickers that adjust and enhance his stats. Marty uses the powers of the notebook to fight Commander Hood and rescue Samantha. Though he was dreaming, he wakes up with the notebook.
If you want to find out about what Marty does while he’s awake, you’ll need to purchase the second episode for $1.99 (US). The first episode is a bit light, but it is free. It combines the game’s tutorial with a couple of quick quests and a boss fight. It should give you a taste for the game’s sense of humor and radical 80s dialog. It’s well worth free, and should be enough to make you shell out for the second episode.
The second episode is more fleshed out with several sub-quests as well as a much larger map. This time the Hood Troopers are in your school with the thinnest possible disguises and manage to let their giant laser spider loose. I completed every quest I came across and managed to wrap up both episodes in about five hours. I was ready for the next episode but it’s yet to be released. An endless battle mode is also promised, but also has yet to get a solid release date.
They do have a system that encourages replay in the meantime. The notebook can be equipped with five stickers that adjusts your stats. While you can find these in-game, there is also another in-game purchase where you can buy cereal box tops and trade them in for stickers. This is a big problem with the game, as you don’t get box tops any other way but by buying them.
The game controls very well. It’s designed around touch rather than a virtual controller. There is a virtual joystick to move the character around the levels, but you can move it anywhere on the screen. The rest of the controls are all hands on. The clearest example is the attack charging system which has you tap repeatedly. Depending on the weapons you equip, there may be mini-games or simple timing exercises. This was one of the best parts of the game; combat never got boring as you were always getting new equipment that felt completely different than what was already in your inventory. You can also defend against attacks by tapping the screen with the correct timing, but it’s a bit tricky.
The mixture of nostalgia and iOS centric design make this a no-brainer. This game has a few flaws, most notably it’s length, but it is cheap. The free first episode amounts to a demo of the game. Trust me, you aren’t going find another game on the App Store where you use Optimus Prime as a weapon. This is the sort of design focused game we need to see more of on iOS.