Saturday Morning RPG is ostensibly a dungeon-crawler, but it feels more like a spin on Pokémon. You level up, complete quests, and deal out criticals, but the real fun (for a certain generation of player) comes in spotting the references. The mini-boss who resembles Skeletor, the footsoldiers plucked from GI Joe, the special attacks that invoke Transformers or Tenderheart Bear: this is an experience in which context often trumps fairly rudimentary mechanics. It’s an old school action game about old school action figures.
As an RPG, it’s creaky but dependable, as random encounters allow you to compete in decent turn-based combat and max out an unexceptional range of stats. There are balancing issues amongst specials, and most fights drag on too long, but bosses are inventive and characterful, and there are a handful of side-quests to complete as you explore.
As nostalgia, however, it can all be peculiarly affecting, from the scratch-and-sniff stickers that represent buffs, to the puffy, padded cover of the notebook that houses the menu. Nothing – not even an IP lawsuit – is allowed to get in the way of a good reference to a cartoon or a 1980s celebrity, and while the humour tends to be enthusiastic rather than witty, a handful of jokes hit their targets and leave you winded by a flood of memories.
It’s a madeleine for the Hasbro generation as much as a serious dungeon dive, then, but it’s hard to judge the end result too harshly. If you’re the right age to appreciate the irony of an over-powered Care Bear attack, Saturday Morning RPG is going to take you right back to your distant past.