Hours.RPG is a title that’s recognizable by any old school OHRRPGCE member. It was the only isometric OHR game for quite some time and is still among only a handful of them today.
Even 10+ years after being released, I still got a little excited loading up the game and seeing the nice title screen. Most of the game relies heavily on the isometric-style graphics, much like the graphics in Earthbound. Although the quality of the map tiles are nothing stellar, the fact that they were made in the unique way, not seen in any other game of its time, makes up for it. Thanks to the modern-day setting, not only does it look like Earthbound, but also plays similar to it as well. Baseball hats, caps, and living shrooms-galore. It is also worth noting that the music selection seems original and fits quite well with the feel of the game. If it isn’t original, then I’ve never heard the selections before, which is shocking. Unfortunately that is where the fun ends, and the quality of work goes right out the window with it.
Although the underused perspective is nice, it is never fully developed or taken advantage of. Considering the tiles themselves are very plain, it wouldn’t have taken much to draw two or three different tilesets to enhance the graphics greatly. Instead, the first three towns you visit have the exact same tileset. The heroes, inside and out of battle, and townsfolk have this “broken leg” look which is very unattractive and could have been fixed if more effort were put into it. You will see the same computer and beds in every house, which gets a bit annoying as well. The only thing that seems to have some differences in them are the pictures and paintings on the walls in various buildings, but that isn’t saying very much. Besides a handful of enemy sprites, most of them have that “drawn in five minutes” look to them as well. Kittens as enemies? Seriously?
Well, what about the story? I remember playing the crap out of this game back in the day. It was awesome! Yeah, the same way Ends of the Earth was awesome, I suppose.
Our hero, Alex, discovers that there are reports of vandalism and stealing in neighboring towns. Since kids have nothing better to do than to get into trouble, Alex takes his friend Dani, and leaves town to investigate. It will take a bit of time getting to the next town thanks to getting into skirmishes with giant mushrooms and weeds every couple of steps. If the frequency of combat weren’t enough, the fact that they pose little to no threat to you will make things even worse. In fact, some battles you can get two or three turns in before your opponent reacts, giving you the feeling that you are fighting sloths every single encounter.
Let me break away from the story for a minute; I just don’t see how even the author could stand playing through his/her battles. Having encounters as frequent as two or three steps, making them face-rolling easy, and giving you more cash than you can think of spending defeats the purpose of having encounters in the first place. At this point, only five minutes into the game, the entire game felt like a train wreck waiting to happen. I decided to keep trucking along though in hopes that the story would entice me to venture further into the game.
Once you reach the next town, you discover that a single book from a home was stolen, causing an enormous uproar of gossip and drama within the town. Once you’ve had your earful of it, head out of town and continue down the road, in hopes of finding this book and ending the feud once and for all. You come to find out that the book is actually part of a collection of other books on a topic called “Time Lock”, which is one scientist’s idea of the “Fountain of Youth”. That’s pretty much just the basic idea though because it never is fully developed during the game. To excuse the flimsy story, you will meet an NPC in one town that is in the author’s own image. He encourages you to have fun and not to worry about making sense of the story at this point. Gee, that’s just what I wanted to hear. Yes! No need for a solid story when I can battle endless waves of sloth-like foes. Yes! No need for useful dialogue when I can visit multiple towns that look exactly like each other. Come on, man.
You can continue playing a good hour or so after this point, but the overall quality of the game continues to diminish over that time. The graphics do not get better, the gameplay does not get better, and the demo comes to an abrupt halt that seems more like a bug than an actual ending.
I used to feel so much love for this game. Looking back now, I’m not sure why I did though. Besides the initial isometric structuring of the graphics, the entire game is flaky. I also can’t get over the fact that the author had enough nerve to tell you not to worry about the story so that he/she would have an excuse to release an overall butt-tastic game.