Longtime readers may remember that I wrote about the “chain game” Chain of Retribution a couple of years ago. It was developed by seven people in succession, each handing the game off to the next after their portion of the design was complete, and I was fascinated by the strange result. Well, now there’s another chain game, also made using RPGMaker, with the imaginative title RPG Maker Chain Game. I knew I had to try it out.
Like Chain of Retribution, RPG Maker Chain Game is a Japanese-style role-playing game, and I can only assume it was inspired by its predecessor. None of the seven developers behind Chain of Retribution return, however — eleven newcomers take the reins instead. The contributions of each author are more structured than in Chain of Retribution as well, each supplying a well-defined chapter (typically ending with an old-fashioned dungeon) in succession. In fact, the specific contributions from several of the authors are revealed early in the game, so I was less compelled to suss out where each author change occurred. Instead, I found I was enjoying the more cohesive game on its own merits.
Chain of Retribution often shifted suddenly and drastically in tone, bouncing between serious drama and outright silliness, but RPG Maker Chain Game keeps a lighthearted comedic tone throughout. I could still tell when new authors took over by the small changes in writing style, but everyone was committed to making a funny game, and they all executed well. This makes a big difference. I enjoyed Chain of Retribution primarily as an observer, watching as a strange and often contradictory thing took shape. RPG Maker Chain Game, on the other hand, works perfectly well as a silly romp, and this tone helps ease any transitions that might otherwise feel awkward. The story veers all over the place, but since it was ridiculous to begin with, this is hardly a problem. If the game suffers anywhere, in fact, it’s in the later chapters, where the authors felt compelled to tie all of the goofy loose ends together into something resembling order. I would have preferred if those threads had been left dangling, because I enjoyed the whimsical manner in which each author headed in a new direction, but I sympathize with the desire to provide closure.
The earliest chapters are interesting because they are entirely puzzle-based, lacking a formal combat system like those traditionally associated with the genre. Combat appears later (in Chapter 3, I think), which makes me wonder if some of the systems design was handled by later authors in the chain. These first few chapters are therefore the most playful, with their authors free to mess around not just with story and characters but also game systems. Later contributors had to work with established characters, items, spells, and everything else, so it was perhaps inevitable that their chapters felt more formulaic. Still, I was impressed with the level of variety on display throughout the game, especially in the dungeon design. Some are labyrinths, others elaborate puzzles full of mechanisms and switches, and still others introduce special items that break rules or enable special abilities for that location only. None are retreads of each other, and while many take inspiration from similar games, each puts its own spin on the design.
The other aspects of the game are less remarkable; the combat system is nothing special, the graphics are stock RPGMaker assets, and a few of the playable characters are superfluous and forgettable. I was rather fond of the first few characters I’d acquired, however, because they’d had the chance to develop distinct and funny personalities over many chapters and different writers. Fortunately, I was able to use different equipment to tailor their abilities to my liking, making them viable combatants for the entire game.
RPG Maker Chain Game is not as odd as Chain of Retribution, then, but it’s interesting in its own ways. And, like Chain of Retribution, it’s completely free, so there’s nothing stopping you from trying it out yourself. Head here to get it if you’re interested.