American McGee may sound like the name of some sort of bear wrestler, or possibly a third rate superhero, but in actual fact he’s a game designer who was involved with the goliath id software. Since his id days, he’s been working on his own brand of what can best be described as weird games, such as the trippy but excellent Alice.
And Scrapland is a similarly off-the-wall effort. It’s set in a sprawling futuristic megalopolis entirely populated by robots who regard biological beings as disgusting, germ-ridden windbags. Can’t blame them really, with all those 24-hour shifts we’ve made them pull in car factories down through the years. You play D-Tritus, a newly arrived and badly punned ‘bot who is offered a career as a journalist.
Scrapland is a 3D action-adventure which is essentially a cross between Grand Theft Auto and Paradroid. Just like GTA it’s an open-ended game set in a huge city which you can bomb around in various vehicles (though these ones fly), picking up missions or just causing trouble, destroying cops or robbing innocent androids.
Paradroid was a venerable Commodore classic in which the player was a robot who could take over other automatons, gaining their powers, and D-Tritus has similar morphing capabilities. He can fill the shoes of many characters, such as a cop robot who hassles others for bribes, or a swindling bank clerk ‘bot who literally hoovers money out of other robot’s metaphorical pockets.
And initially it’s almost all good. Swerving through the traffic-packed capital city is a rather awesome experience which makes you feel like Judge Dredd, zooming between massive constructs and walkways in an aesthetically splendid futuristic setting. Testing out the powers of the various robots you can morph into is also a hoot.
There’s plenty to do as you contend with the main unfurling plot involving an assassination which you cover for your newspaper, with missions that require you to sneak into places using disguises, photographing evidence or eliminating some miscreant. Races can be run, with the winnings going towards upgrading your ship, and duelling is a sport in Scrapland too.
However, it’s with the ship-to-ship fighting that the game falls down a little. Combat is fast and furious, but almost overly so and it ends up a rather jerky and unsatisfying experience. The controls didn’t sit particularly well with us: even though they’re simple enough, the feel of the movement just isn’t quite right. Engaged enemy ships also have a frustrating habit of always being able to find repair power-ups just when you’ve nearly killed them, which makes some fights drag on and on.
Another problem is that after a while, the missions start to get somewhat repetitive. You’re given the same tasks over and over again from the basic template missions, like kill something or photograph something. There’s certainly a danger of a gameplay tedium setting in, especially if you’ve a low boredom threshold.
Company: Deep Silver