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American McGee Presents: Scrapland

Score: 76%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Enlight Software
Developer: MercurySteam
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Mission-Based Driving/ Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

While it offers a fun and engaging free-form style of play reminiscent of the Grand Theft Auto series, American McGee Presents: Scrapland lacks the depth and challenged required of a truly great game.

Though it lacks in other areas, the graphics in Scrapland are reasonably good. Being a game composed almost entirely of metal objects, it was easy to make a nice presentation without needing to worry about all of the associated problems of rendering organic looking matter. The game possesses a unique style that works very well for it.

There are two distinct types of environments in the game: the various indoor environments and the large expansive city zone outdoors. The indoor environments are a mixture of mundane and neat. Many of the areas look ostensibly the same as many others, while some, such as the archbishopís temple, feature very unique architecture and environmental effects. The outdoor area is a trip to fly through and features various districts -- each with their own style. The commercial district is bright and features lots of neon signs, while the industrial area is permeated with this nasty brown smog. The game also features a scant few pre-rendered cut-scenes which are decent, but nothing to the level of Square-Enix or Blizzard.

Nothing about the sound or music was especially noteworthy. Basically, nothing was really irritating, and it did its job well. The sound effects were typical beeps, boops and swishes, and the music was mainly predictable techno-industrial-style stuff.


Gameplay:

The gameplay of Scrapland can be summed up with the following sentence. It is Grand Theft Auto-like, except you steal bodies instead of cars. Actually, you can steal ships in GTA too, but only when theyíre parked.

The basic premise of the game is that you are a robot named D-Tritus, who built himself from scrap metal and traveled to an asteroid named Scrapland. It seems Scrapland is whatís left of Earth after humans ruined it and left. Itís now run by robots; humans, referred to as horrific viscious beings, are not allowed. You are assigned the job of a reporter; the gameís plot truly begins when the archbishop is murdered and you are given the job of figuring out ďwhodunit.Ē This all sounds far more interesting than it really is, and the game plays out more like a sequence of missions than a cohesive game or an involved murder mystery. The things you actually do involve things like killing X amount of certain robots on foot and in ships, racing people, and doing funny little things like killing tiny little stapler robots with a giant hammer.

Another interesting facet of Scrapland is The Great Database. This is a great computer in the city that can store the information of any robot. Thus, when you die, TGD can bring you back. Youíll have to pay bishops a hefty little premium for extra lives though. If you die with no extra lives, youíll go to the jail where youíll have to escape. While this makes absolutely no sense, donít worry about it. Scrapland isnít a game that ever tries to make sense.

Aside from a devastating attack that kills anything in one hit, D-Tritus also has the ability to change into other robots. There are 16 robots D-Tritus can become in all, including himself. There are two methods of changing forms. You can right-click on a robot to become that particular one, or you can use GDB access points to change into anyone you want. Impersonating other robots is illegal however, and taking over a particular robot tends to make the police angry. So if you spend too much time in any form, a police beholder bot will eventually figure out what youíre doing and sound the alarm. Robots have a variety of abilities from jumping, stealing money, and devastating area effect attacks like burping and putting people to sleep.


Difficulty:

This all sounds very intriguing, but Scrapland is actually pretty simple, straightforward, and way too easy. While playing this game is generally a nice distraction, you will very rarely feel challenged at all unless youíre a total novice to video games. Most robot attacks tend to destroy other robots outright, and the most challenge in combat is just trying not to get surrounded by 20 robots (rarely a difficult feat when an exit or good hiding spot is more than 10 feet away). Money is also terribly easy to come across since you can challenge any robot to a race, bet an ungodly amount, and have very little trouble winning. Thereís nothing inherently wrong with an easier game, but it probably could have benefited by upping the challenge factor just a notch. But hey, if you like easy games, here you go.

Game Mechanics:

The game is pretty much divided into two main areas of activity, which boil down to two series of missions. You have the main story-based missions, and then another set of tasks you can do for a robot called The Crazy Gambler. While the story-based missions vary quite a bit, The Crazy Gambler missions pretty much work as follows: you get a crazy bet to perform three random tasks such as steal X number of ships or kill X types of robots, and then you get a super crazy bet which is usually just a race or combat in ships. These usually net you new types of parts for your ship.

Ship building, like the rest of Scrapland, is fun in its own right, but lacks the depth it could have had. You choose the type, engine, weapons, etc., pay the money, and boom -- a new ship. While there are quite an extensive set of different ship plans to find or earn in the game, you usually donít have to face many tradeoffs when choosing parts, so you just build a ship with the best of everything.

One final thing Iíll note is just how inexplicably D-Tritus behaves. Maybe thereís a point or message in this: D-Tritus is one strange person. He seems like a nice, decent, hero-type, but heíll suddenly go possessed, and in effect kill new friends and police officers -- just because someone tells him to?!! Granted, the police arenít nice, but still. Perhaps itís meant to be in good fun, but the way itís executed just makes it feel, well, stupid. I mean, is he a hired hitman or a journalist?!! Honestly. Thatís my take anyway.

So, to sum up, Scrapland is a fun, engaging, and entertaining little piece of software. If you enjoy mindless fun with little challenge to frustrate you, you might just love Scrapland.


-Alucard, GameVortex Communications
AKA Stephen Triche

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 98/2000/ME/XP, Pentium III 800MHZ or equivilent, 256 MB of RAM, 1.5 GB Hard Drive space, DirectX 8 complient 64MB graphics card
 

Test System:



Windows XP, Pentium IV 2.8 MHZ, 1024 MB of RAM, DirectX 9.0c, Radeon 9800 Pro with 256MB of memory

Sony PlayStation 2 Technic Beat Sony PlayStation 2 The Incredibles

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated