When I was first handed this games I think I said 'I love American McGee's Alice but this does not look like my cuppa tea.' I have to say I was grossly wrong, though this has not hit the number one of my favourite games of all time it definitely ranks somewhere high up.
Many reviews I have looked at for this game seem to compare it to 'Grand Theft Auto.' I however see little or no similarity to GTA. The only thing in common is you can steal vehicles out of the parking lot but it's not actually a major part of the game as you have your own ships to build and travel around in. Anyway after playing this game for quite a few hours I have come to think of it as being one of the best and most unique games released in recent years.
Not many games can boast rich and vibrant graphics like Scrapland can, each model and level has been lovingly crafted to suit the game and feel of the story. There is little if anything modelled on the real world, so the design team must have spent years re-imagining most of the common items that appear in this type of game. The graphics bring colour and sometimes chunky characters, these may mislead a few gamers in to thinking this is a kid's game, however the humour and some of the language is aimed at a much older audience.
Even though my computer is getting long in the teeth, the graphics and engine still managed to pump out the top notch visuals, with ease and precision. Newer PC's I think would handle Scrapland like a charm and still be able to run applications in the background. Everything has been thought of graphics wise from the range of lighting effects and shaders for each type of robot to the flares and explosions of the gunships, all of it adds together to offer a truly sold and top notch visual experience.
Many games over the years have tended to let the sound and music of the game slip and this in the end shatters any atmosphere the story or graphics can create. However Scrapland dose not suffer this malady.
Let start with the music, it's not classical or rock, nor it is thumping techno, I think it would probably fall in to the category of quirky jazz. However odd it may seem this fits with the odd style and visuals of the game adding that element of tension or light hearted comedy where needed. It's not the kind of thing you would want to listen to on your iPod, however it's perfectly matched to the game.
The ambient sounds not only inside the buildings but while flying around add more depth and feeling to the game. They seem to have gotten most things down just right to offer a good level of audio and environmental emersion.
Lastly the voiceovers, every voice was carefully chosen to suit the visuals of each robot and character. From the overly camp Bishops to the gritty Cops everything gels well and offers a very entertaining ride. Though the sound banks for each robot are limited, each key character has everything spoken. It makes me happy to see companies making use of good voice talent rather than just throwing a whole heap of text at you which tends to pull you out of the reality of the game.
The controls are well implemented and the action of the characters smooth and easy to get to grips with, no glitches or issues there. Even gunship combat works well on the mouse, I thought about blowing he dust off my old joystick and giving that a try but there was no need.
Just about everything you need is at hand or easy to get to. You never need to flick through multiple menus or have to hunt for things in the HUD. The only think missing was an overview map, this would really help when wandering around some of the buildings as the mini map is a little to limited in it's range so you will end up going over old ground in order to find the right place. However the developers seem to have thought about this and maybe the lack of overview map was a conscious decision to get you to interact more with the other characters, because if your ever lost just ask a cop, he will happily lead you to where you need to be.
One thing that amazed me, and I rarely find a modern game that matches this, is the stability of the game and engine. Not once did I ever suffer any slowdown, choppy graphics, bugs or CTD's. It's always a major downer when you get anew game and after playing for five minutes your greeted by a Blue Screen or your desktop. Thankfully out of the many hours of continuous play of Scrapland it never fell over once and always seemed to be extremely stable. Even when I had to pop back to desktop with the ALT + Tab, I returned to the game and all was well.
I think this is where opinions will be divided; as none of the characters are human some players may have trouble identifying with them. I did not find this to be the case, but you won't find a Lara Croft, or Solid Snake here. The lack of human characters fits well with the world and offers a fun alternative to the shiny people you normally get in games.
Right from the beginning you're led in to the story, you're taken through a tutorial and you won't even notice it until afterwards, as the game world has been constructed to be fairly self explanatory and indicative to game play. Even the concept of character death is dealt with right from the start, as your character is scanned in to The Great Database. Essentially this is a resurrection system which you can use to pay for extra lives or if you run out you end up in jail.
Once you get in to the plot of the multiple murders of key characters you will find you always want to continue playing to get the next clue or unravel the next bit of the story. On the whole the story is well crafted and interesting enough to keep you wanting more and to find out what happens next. Like a good movie it keeps you griped right from the start and never deviates far from the main plot, nor does it have an extraneous exposition.
It's in the Eye of the Beholder.
Everything about this game is well thought out and planned, nothing seem off or amiss. Though it won't be everyone's cuppa tea, I would say give it a try you never know if you will like it or not.
The only thing that bugs me about the game is that some of the missions repeat themselves, and you end up doing nearly the same mission 2 or 3 times in a row. This is not a major issue as the game is fun to play anyway so it never really bothered me that much. However out of all the games I have played over the years it seems many of them have this same flaw where the game has repeat missions with slight differences to them. I would put this down to the competitive nature of the gaming industry and the consumer demanding more bang for their buck.
All in all this is a well crafted and unique game that will have a special place in the hearts of many gamers, and probably loathed by a few others. But then every game suffers this fate.