Developer: Mercury Steam
Release Date: January 2005
Pre-order 'SCRAPLAND': PC
There really aren't enough spunky robot games out there.
The recent Metal Arms: A Glitch in the System offered up some fun humor with sassy robot stars, but other than that, the robot scene has been bleak. Everything's either big mech or automated vaccuum cleaner, and what fun is that? Scrapland's setting – as you might have guessed – largely concerns robots, and I don't think I'll be the first to say that a fun, artistically slick and cartoony at times – not to mention humorous – title that stars our mechanical friends is a bad thing.
Scrapland is essentially an asteroid that was deserted many years ago by humans, or at least, biological forms, and the only ones left aboard are of course the robots, most of them gathering in the biggest city on the rock, Chimera. The vast majority of the robot population has grown to rather despise the humans, and in fact are very prejudiced against them. When the main character, D-Tritus, arrives, he's not very accustomed to the way things worked around Chimera; he's assigned a job as a reporter and makes do with a small, beat-up airship that at least flies.
D-Tritus is a pretty smart 'bot, but would he be prepared for his first real investigation: the first-ever murder of a robot on Chimera? You see, in this world, whenever a robot kicks the bucket, his personal data still exists in something known as the Great Database, and can be easily restored for a bit of cash. This murder is much different in that the code has actually been erased, somehow, from the Great Database. Of course D-Tritrus isn't ready for a case so important, but there are a few tricks up his sleeve that'll help him get by. He has the ability to hack into about a dozen other robots and overwrite their programming, granting him an opportunity to basically snatch their bodies and take over. D-Tritus can become a banker, a cop, or even the mayor, to name just a few.
It's funny that our main man can become a cop, because this sort of behavior is exactly what isn't legal in Scrapland. If the cops catch you you'll be in quite a lot of trouble, and aside from that, your energy is in constant drain while using this ability. You could also choose to attack the cops before they can find you, but that requires extra energy. The key to staying at the top of your game is to keep your juice in check.
Everything mentioned thus far concerns the on-foot portion of the game; that is, any time you're not in a vehicle of some sort. When do you hop into one, boy, it's impressive. The game flies at a smooth framerate with tight, easy-to-use controls. Whether you're hunting down a member of one of the local factions or participating in a balls-to-the-wall race, everything feels dead-on and wonderful. As a result, the sense of speed is great and controlling everything is loads of fun.
Another very nice touch is in the actual customization of your vehicle. You may visit a handy dandy garage in Chimera whenever you please in order to upgrade or simply change some parts on your ship. There are dozens upon dozens of parts: you can change your ship's hull completely, throw in a more efficient engine, improve its armor, or add on whatever weapons might strike your fancy. The game offers up different types of rockets, machine guns, laser beams, and a rail gun… just to name a small sampling. To make things even more interesting, you are not limited to cash transactions in acquiring new parts (take that as you will). Having fun with a decked-out ride is half of the fun in Scrapland.
The game actually plays out in a pretty mellow fashion, mimicking what people have begun calling "GTA3-style open-endedness." What this means, basically, is that you can walk or drive around until a mission occurs, then partake in that mission and be on your merry way. Some missions are integral and advance the story, while others will merely sidetrack you or provide fun challenges to keep you entertained. There's plenty of fun to be had in Scrapland.
The graphics in the game are great. What they lack in realism, they make up for in cartoony glory – the game has sort of a goofy look to it, for sure, but it's a very cool goofy look, with a broad range of colorful patterns and peculiarly-shaped objects making up the environments. The character designs are good, too. Top it all off with some excellent animation, and this is a winning combination! The graphics ring true with something of a Tron feel but with the smoothness of recent games like Ubisoft's Beyond Good & Evil.
Sound is more than adequate with an array of catchy and fitting tunes. They're not exactly orchestral in quality or likeness, but the heavily synthesized tunes will have you bopping your head and feeling right at home with the mechanical folk in the game. The voice acting is also decent; D-Tritus sometimes seems a little off-key, as if the voice actor started trying new things halfway through the recording session. Other characters are pretty well done and sound appropriate.
The multiplayer mode isn't particularly innovative, but it will definitely provide a good bit of fun with deathmatch-esque gameplay. As a bonus, you'll be able to use your own custom ships during the battle, making the online play feel more seamless, rather than something tacked onto the game's box as a feature.
Scrapland has shaped up into something very impressive. The atmosphere of the game is certainly unique, and the storyline looks to provide plenty of thrills. The on-foot portion is solid and fun, with some slick body-zapping action, but the vehicular gameplay is excellent. Providing good controls with a great framerate, and lots of customization options, the dozens of missions in the game should offer up plenty of fun. Scrapland isn't due out for a while, but when it hits the Xbox and PC, it is safe to say that one would be missing out if he decided to ignore this title.
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