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App of the Day: Saturday Morning RPG

Hero in a half hour.

Nostalgia's a powerful weapon, and Mighty Rabbit's pixelated gem Saturday Morning RPG is armed to the teeth. For any TV-addled child of the 80s, this knowing trip down memory lane should be utterly compelling; a turn-based RPG based in and around a fictional cartoon world, with barely a minute passing without some nod or wink to our misspent youths sat cross-legged in front of the family telly.

The other thing with nostalgia, though, is that it can play tricks on you. Thankfully, Saturday Morning RPG has more than just mindless reverence under its blocky hat. You play as Marty, a typical nerd-turned-hero underdog, who gets sucked into the latest episode of his favourite generic action animation as he drifts off to sleep. Soon, he finds himself doing battle with the odious Commander Hood, a dastardly type who's kidnapped Marty's sweetheart and charged a pack of armed guards to stop our hero from ever getting her back.

Good job, then, that Fred Savage's Nintendo-powered superhero The Wizard is on hand to give Marty the confidence and strength he needs to fight back against the Hood army and rescue his good lady. And with this being the world of 80s cartoons, there's no better way than to do this than good old-fashioned fisticuffs.

Most of your time in Saturday Morning RPG's 8-bit wonderland is spent fighting off minions in a combat system that blends traditional turn-based pugilism with iOS-happy screen-tapping. It's an engaging way to play; most of your attacks involve ridiculous weaponry like laserdiscs which you hurl at bad guys' faces, or a Care Bear rip-off that shoots rainbows. You can even turn into an Optimus Prime-a-like and mow down multiple enemies. Nobody tell Hasbro, though.

Unlike most turn-based RPGs, too, Mighty Rabbit's effort doesn't force you into spectatorship when you're being smashed up by the nasties. A well-timed tap will block an incoming strike, with superlatives like 'Radical' and 'Bogus' flashing up to compliment or disparage your accuracy. Add in pre-fight buffs, all activated by literally scratching at the scratch-and-sniff stickers on your garish in-game notebook, and you've got a fighting system that's surprisingly robust for a game that's selling itself so heavily on style.

Outside of battle, Saturday Morning RPG is a little more sedate, offering a gentle top-down dungeon crawl, punctuated by a few amusing secret areas and side quests to distract you before you bump into another baddy. The game's episodic structure, where the first is free and subsequent offerings set you back £1.49, is smart too, as each chapter tells its own story and offers new joke-ridden environments to explore and daft toys to play with. And, obviously, it ties in perfectly with the subject matter.

The real joy, though, is that undiluted hit of nostalgia. Even without official cartoon licences, Saturday Morning RPG captures the spirit of school-free mornings spent in Turtles pyjamas nursing a bowl of Coco Pops and basking in the glow of the TV. Let's hope future episodes keep up the steady flow of in-jokes and day-glo memories, or else how will Marty ever get his girl back?

Tune in next week to find out...

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.