Few mediums can effectively encapsulate the imagination processes of a creative child. It’s like catching lightning in a bottle. And yet, that’s exactly what RPG Time: The Legend of Wright has done. From the moment you boot it up, it pulls you headfirst into the vivid imagination of its narrator Kenta, an aspiring game master who has concocted the most elaborate role-playing game session that could ever be conceived.
In RPG Time: The Legend of Wright, you have a front row seat to the intricate game that Kenta has fashioned from doodles in notebooks, cardboard boxes, and other ephemera to which a 10-year-old might have access. He talks you through its countless stages by narrating the action, speaking for various characters, and otherwise coaching you along.
You mostly control Wright, the hero of the game, by moving him through hand-illustrated scenes. You guide him through dungeons, help him find items, partake in unique challenges, and much more. The game environment itself can also be interacted with at times, like in the optional (but highly recommended) Tutorial Dungeon, which awards you with a pencil for doodling on the levels themselves.
In terms of presentation, RPG Time: The Legend of Wright is one of the most meticulously designed and deliciously meta experiences I’ve ever had in a video game. From square one, as Kenta lays all the various components before you and builds the game environment and/or HUD, it draws the player directly into its motif as though it’s pulling you into your TV. Not unlike Yoshi’s Crafted World, everything is made of craft materials or doodles, and animated charmingly. The designers did a superb job of incorporating mixed media and giving each material the right character.
“In terms of presentation, RPG Time: The Legend of Wright is one of the most meticulously designed and deliciously meta experiences I’ve ever had in a video game.”
Even the static elements of the screen feel alive and relevant. Kenta uses the soundtracks for his four favourite fictional games to build the score of his own creation, and at the edge of the screen you can usually see his music player, displaying the current song. Wright’s life total is tracked by a tape measure, and the status screens showing his gear have been built out of beads. Other items on the desk offer gentle reminders of certain button prompts, and can even play a role in the game itself at times.
With all of these presentation tools at hand, RPG Time: The Legend of Wright takes the player on an absolute roller coaster of scenarios inspired by classic games. The first chapter has Wright escaping from a cave—pretty typical scene, right? However, Kenta finds a way to turn each page/screen on its head somehow, and what seems like a basic dungeon crawl swerves in unexpected directions.
However, while the settings may change course rapidly, the gameplay itself can feel somewhat sluggish. I found myself missing some prompts or even getting knocked out by certain hazards because of a less than stellar input delay or an overzealous hitbox. At times, you’ll face enemies head-on, classic Dragon Quest-style, by moving the cursor over certain body parts and moving the right analog stick to slash with Wright’s sword. If the cursor isn’t positioned just right, or the analog stick isn’t moved in quite the right direction, you may pay for your inaccuracy with a blow to your health.
“…RPG Time: The Legend of Wright takes the player on an absolute roller coaster of scenarios inspired by classic games.”
This battle mechanic is one of the most constant gameplay elements in a rotating door of challenges and input styles. The name RPG Time starts to feel somewhat inaccurate early on, as the game alternates between new scenarios that draw from classic adventure tropes. For instance, a segment of that first cave drops Wright into a top-down, 8-bit “game within a game” challenge that lasts several minutes.
Despite this variety of set pieces, linearity permeates most of the game. For all its outlandish curveballs, you’re railroaded most of the time, without real freedom to use the medium and make up unconventional solutions.
While RPG Time: The Legend of Wright defies our innate temptation to define its gameplay loop, the whole experience is infused with an infectious charm. It’s a fairly text-heavy game by objective measurements, and yet doesn’t feel like it. Kenta yammers from the corner of the screen most of the time but I only found his input jarring when retrying particular moments after a death.
Each turn of the page, I was eager to see what new tricks would be thrown at me, reminiscing for bygone days of trying to cobble my own stories together from doodles and other things around the house. The masterful presentation makes up for its dizzying gameplay shifts and occasional linearity, ultimately making Wright’s saga a joyful ride for school age players, or adults who want to revisit halcyon days.