A game 10 years in the making, RPG Time: The Legend Of Wright feels like the work of a single creative schoolchild, for better and worse.
Imagine booting up a classic role-playing game like Dragon Quest, making your way through a traditional dungeon and slaying monsters in turn-based battles. Then, after maybe an hour of this, your sword is taken away and you’re now running away from a monster in a spooky Resident Evil style mansion, before suddenly switching to yet another game style. That is the best way we can sum up RPG Time: The Legend Of Wright.
It’s a strange hodgepodge of different game genres, that feels like it was thrown together by a child with unchecked ambitions. Which is appropriate considering the premise has you playing as a schoolchild who is himself playing a tabletop game that your classmate, 10-year-old Kenta Nakamura, has made themselves.
In a way, this justifies near enough every aspect of the game’s design. From the incredibly simple story and one note characterisation to the multiple but basic gameplay types; it all feels like a child’s attempt at making a game. Kenta’s (and by extension, the actual developers at DeskWorks) enthusiasm can be felt in every corner of the experience. Considering this game took 10 years to make, this is clearly a labour of love and what we’re seeing is exactly how the team envisioned it.
Like we said, the story isn’t anything to wright (sorry) home about. A magical kingdom is being invaded by demons, the princess has been kidnapped, and it’s up to the titular hero, Wright, to save her and the world. It’s the same story the Super Mario games have been telling since 1985.
It’s not the story or characters that matter, however, but the journey itself. Rather than commit to one gameplay style, RPG Time is always throwing something new at you. This helps keeps things interesting since you never know what you’ll be doing next. Chapter one, for example, takes place entirely in a cave, but aside from battling enemies, you’ll also be playing baseball with moles, piloting a tank in a top-down shooter, and going a few rounds with Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.
It’s a child’s imagination at its most unfiltered, so it gets away with the inconsistent, often random worldbuilding and plot points. Plenty of moments got a chuckle out of us for how left field they are, with some chapters shaking up the formula entirely.
The most consistent element throughout the whole game is the turn-based battles, but these aren’t random encounters. They take place at specific moments during your adventure and are more akin to puzzles than actual fights. Winning isn’t a matter of using powerful spells to kill a monster before it kills you, but figuring out a specific method for each one.
The earliest example is a little fire demon. Rather than attack it directly, you need to instead swipe your sword/pencil at a nearby fizzy drink bottle, knocking its contents on the demon and weakening it. This means no two battles ever play out the same. The downside, though, is that most battles wind up being incredibly short once you’ve figured out the solution. That’s not the case for some of the boss encounters, which boast multiple phases, but it means there are a lot of fights that see the enemy taken down in a single blow.
This is a problem that extends to the whole game. While every new gameplay style or mechanic is easy to understand and works competently, there is nothing here that will be remotely challenging for anyone over the age of 10. We barely ever had to use food items to restore our health during battles, and the only puzzles we really struggled with were the trial and error ‘choose the right hiding place’ ones during the Resident Evil style chase sequences.
Even getting a game over barely feels like a hindrance, since checkpoints are very generous. You’ll always return to exactly where you failed, and the game over screen also has an optional hint system if you really don’t know what you’re meant to do next. Plus, you’ll never get lost since Kenta’s always on hand to tell you exactly where to go next.
Sometimes he’ll outright explain solutions and occasionally he’ll complete tasks for you. There was one instance where we had to make an origami boat but, rather than it be another mini-game, Kenta just did it himself, as if he’s too eager to get you to the next part of the story.
So this just means RPG Time is geared towards a much younger audience, right? We’re not too sure about that either. While we can see kids gravitating towards its easy-to-grasp gameplay and cute visuals, the game will quite regularly interrupt what you’re doing so Kenta can provide narration. Whether it’s entering a new location, meeting a new character, or even dealing damage to an enemy, Kenta always has something to say, and it means the flow of the game is constantly grinding to a halt.
It’s the video game equivalent of a car starting and stopping every few seconds and, unless you enjoy the dialogue, it can get very annoying, very quickly. A young child with a short attention span may not want to keep playing if Kenta’s going to keep interrupting.
On top of that, there are a few sections that last just a wee bit too long and feel like padding. One task in chapter two requires waiting in line to get some pudding. It’s admittedly a pretty short segment, but why does this exist in the first place? The same chapter also has you attend a class on how to be an adventurer, but at the end of the day, it’s as exciting as going to actual school. It’s hard to believe a child would add these kinds of elements to their own game.
It feels like most of the development time was spent on the visuals and overall aesthetic, which would also explain why the game has so few side activities. You can search for hidden mininjas throughout your adventure (which is tantamount to a hidden object game) and there’s an ongoing side quest called Subterrane Search Party that you can access at any time after you unlock it in chapter two. However, much like the main game, it consists entirely of one-off mini-games that we don’t think you can even fail.
There’s very little replay value too, considering its linear design means there are no alternative means of completing tasks, nor are there hidden areas to explore. You can choose to eat the magical star shards you receive at the end of every chapter (something the game explicitly says you shouldn’t do) to increase your health bar, but we never did figure out if this has any meaningful effect on the story or not.
Choosing to focus on the visuals was arguably worth it, though, as they’re undeniably charming and the game’s strongest element. The majority of RPG Time takes place within the notebook, with the beautifully animated pencil drawings more than making up for the barebones story and characters. Everything else outside the confines of the book, meanwhile, is made up of cardboard dioramas and household objects.
Your health bar is represented with a tape measure, a pencil sharpener serves as a smithy, and menu screens are just moving to another desk in the classroom. Perhaps our favourite detail is how the game’s soundtrack consists of music from Kenta’s favourite games that he download onto his music player. There are so many little touches that are easy to miss but add to the experience, like how your sword swings during battles will leave pencil lines on the page.
How much you enjoy RPG Time is ultimately dependent on how much you love the homemade aesthetic and vibes. If you aren’t enamoured with them from start to finish, then you’re stuck with a rather barebones game, despite its wide variety of gameplay styles and mini-games.
If we were playing a real-life version of RPG Time made by an actual 10-year-old, we’d probably be much kinder since it’d be an impressive feat for a child. As far as we’re aware, however, DeskWorks is made up of adult game designers.
Playing RPG Time is a lot like playing pretend with an extremely energetic and imaginative child. In short bursts, you’re going to have as much fun as the kid is, but eventually you’re going to tire out even as they poke and prod you to keep going because the next part is super cool, they swear.
RPG Time is far too casual, and childish, for role-playing fanatics but it’s also not an ideal introduction to the genre for young newcomers. However, if you don’t think you’ll ever get tired of its aesthetic, or you’re looking for a casual yet imaginative experience to keep you occupied between bigger role-playing games, then you’ll likely enjoy the adventure and all its many surprises.
RPG Time: The Legend Of Wright review summary
In Short: It’s full of charm and unfiltered imagination, but RPG Time’s presentation and vibes bely a rather bare-bones and overly simplistic role-playing game that struggles to hold your attention.
Pros: The aesthetic is top-notch and full of cute details. There’s always something new and surprising around the corner. Simplistic mechanics mean anyone can pick it up and enjoy it.
Cons: Its simple design is a double-edged sword and not particularly stimulating for seasoned players. Some segments outstay their welcome while others end shockingly quickly. Little to no replay value. Kenta’s constant interruptions can get annoying.
Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release Date: 18th August (13th September for PC)
Age Rating: 7
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