Take a free-roaming, futuristic environment, add a dash of Futurama with a pinch of Ratchet & Clank and you get Scrapland. With a heavy emphasis on ship building, customization and combat, American Mcgee Presents: Scrapland is a mission-driven third person action adventure game that takes place in a rich, colorful, wide-open world.
Scrapland was once a human planet, but the humans raped all of the planet’s resources and left. The robots that remained built their own civilization with the scrap of the human exploitation. D’Tritus Debris is a new arrival to Scrapland with ambiguous roots somewhere in outer space. He soon learns that humans are not allowed on Scrapland. However, the robots have created enough problems of their own. D’Tritus soon realizes that this is no robotic utopia.
Gunships are the undeniable focus of this game. The primary aim of missions is to accumulate money and acquire new plans for upgrading your ships. Colorful characters abound. D’Tritus himself is a na´ve, young guy who is as fresh and untested as a newborn babe. He is assigned a job as a reporter, and he soon falls into the role of a mild-mannered, robotic Clark Kent.
D’Tritus has the ability to overwrite any other robot and therefore take on that robot’s appearance and abilities. He also has the ability to hack into the Great Database and transform himself into a bevy of characters with diverse abilities. This is the key dynamic of most of the foot missions in Scrapland. I there a need to infiltrate a crime scene to get photos for the news outlet? Transform yourself into a cop and roam about unmolested.
One problem I have with this GTA3 imitation fad is the nature of all these free-roaming environments. Open ended game play is very cool, as long as there’s plenty of stuff to do. Vast buildings, and endless corridors filled with little or nothing to do, well, that’s just boring. Scrapland is thickly populated with a large number of different robots. You can chat with anybody, and if you’re so minded, you can mix it up with anybody. Indeed, the locals seem to be in a constant state of conflict, but where are all the goodies? Sure, you can pick up cash from dead robots, and you can transform into a banker and steal cash from live ones, but there’s not a whole lot to do on foot.
The ship missions take up a good bulk of the game. These are solid and take place in a beautiful, convoluted city. Here again these missions by their very nature are limited. Racing and combat are about all that is available to you when in your ship. Sure, there are twists here and there and escalating levels of difficulty as well as different arenas, but in the end it boils down to race or dogfight.
Scrapland has a lot of promise. Even though there are some limitations to the wide-open world of the game and the missions take place within a limited scope, it is a nice-looking, entertaining play. Just because it’s simple in scope doesn’t mean that it isn’t focused on something intriguing, and it passes the biggest test: it’s fun.