Sunday, 6 July 2014

Saturday Morning RPG: Game Design review

Saturday Morning RPG is an episodic RPG game where you play Marty, a guy who is given a magical notebook to stop the evil Commander Hood from taking over the real world. It's a homage and parody of 1980s shows and toys. Commander Hood and his goons for example are a paraody of Cobra Commander and his henchmen from G.I. Joe. The game really nails the atmosphere of the 1980s with its heroes, villains and supporting cast.

What I disliked
For me there are three main gripes with the game.
Combat System- Before combat, you can scratch stickers on your magic sticker book which grant you special bonuses such as extra health or magic. You have to do this by rocking your joystick around before the time runs out. I like the concept of being able to choose what bonuses you get before you encounter the enemy however but its repetitive and not necessarily fun after the 20th time you do it

During the combat rounds you rely on items as your main attacks and skills. Each has a limited use within a combat round. For example, you can only use the basket ball deals a small amount of damage and makes the enemy burn and can only be used a certain number of times. There's no way of restoring your items so once you've used all of them up you're out of options.

You also have a charging mechanic where you use your magic to multiply the damage your attack. There are three different methods of charging. One by button mashing, two by automatically charging and three by timed method. They are result in the same effect and its really about which one you prefer the most. Personally I find having 3 methods little bit silly and almost like the developers didn't quite know what they were doing so decided 3 methods

Blocking is also interactive and by pressing the block button at the right time, you can reduce damage and regain magic.

The game is clearly geared towards this charging mechanic because you get magic for blocking enemy attacks and have a special attack which charges your magic. At the same time you have limited items with normal weak damage.

Finally, when you attack some attacks require timed attacks, others require button mashing while others require you to memorise a sequence.

 In a genre where repetitive combat is already a problem, all these factors serves to lengthen the combat more so then I liked. I think that's a problem here because it means that literally half the combat is charging your next attack.

Overall the combat system feels like a drag rather than joy. But I have would rather have a more strategic system rather than relying so many button presses. Its fine to have interactive bits in the combat but not all the time otherwise it becomes boring.

Atmosphere- As mentioned, the game nails the 1980s atmosphere perfectly. Because I grew up in the 1980s, I understand the numerous refernces to toys and cartoon series and the characters. However that's also the problem, the game literally revels in the 1980s. If you don't understand the references, I fail to see how the  mish mash of 1980s characters and people would appeal to you.

Rather than focusing on various villains that parody several 1980s cartoons, they should have instead focused on parodying just one cartoon series and then slowly drawn the players into that particular world. For example, they could have just focused on parodying GI Joe and followed the fake TV series episode by episode. At the same time they could have some sort of encyclopedia or something to help introduce a larger cast.

Unfinished- The final gripe I have is with the unfinished nature of the game. Because its "Episodic". The developers haven't finished the game despite it being already out for so long and even on Steam. I'm looking forward to playing it but when will that be? There is no release schedule for the next episode nor any sign of closure.

Saturday Morning RPG wasn't terrible by any means and I enjoyed my time with it but the combat system, multiple button pressing really annoyed me. The atmosphere was great but even I had to ponder for a moment and try to figure out who some of these characters were parodying. I can recommend this to people who love RPGs and also those who enjoy 1980s cartoons but its hard to recommend to anybody else.

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