Scrapland: Junky

By Shamus Posted Sunday Nov 26, 2006

Filed under: Game Reviews 4 comments

Scrapland & Robots
Top: D-Tritus, your main character from Scrapland. Tommy Vercetti he aint.
BOTTOM: Rodney, the protagonist in the movie Robots.
I mentioned that I picked up American McGee’s Scrapland. Laying aside whatever way this software violated my computer in the name of keeping me safe from pirating it, I’m finding the game itself to be instantly tiresome and hopelessly dull.

The game styles itself as a freeform exploration and mission-based game. To wit: Sci-fi Grand Theft Auto. If this is where they were aiming, they fell pretty sort of the mark. The city is indeed large and quite pretty, but it is compartmentalized so that you can’t just freely fly from one section to another. You have to go on foot to jump from one playpen to the next. Taken together, the areas don’t add up to much. I’m looking at the map and at two hours into the game I’ve seen nearly all of it. It’s not very big. Worse, the areas are maze-like and constantly blocked by walls. You never get that feeling of flying over a huge city. You never see the horizon (not even a fake backdrop one) and so that whole game feels like it is taking place indoors.

The character designs make this seem like a Gamecube title aimed at young teens, but the game itself (missions involving robbing and killing) and the dialog (bleeped out swear words and a little robotic sexual innuendo) make the game seem more adult. The protagonist seems like a clueless imbecile. He has an earnest, cheerful, “golly-gee” delivery that doesn’t suit his actions or abilities at all.

It has very mild RPG-ish character development, where you become stronger by getting more and better parts for your ride. As the game goes on your vehicle gets more hit points, stronger engines, and more powerful weapons. This sounded pretty great, but they made an all-too-familiar mistake: You can only get better parts by completing missions, so if a mission is giving you trouble you can’t go earn better parts to help you though it. This is another sad example of a game which was self-balancing until the makers thwarted it by inserting arbitrary roadblocks to progress. Lots of games make this error, and it’s always depressing to see it happen.

The best thing about the game is that it made me remember all the fun I had playing Descent 2 back in 1998. So I dug that game out of mothballs, found some nice user-made patches to make it work on modern systems, and I’ve been having a grand time with this old favorite.

I can’t bring myself to go back to Scrapland. I found the game in the bargain bin for $5. When I bought the game I said that “you can’t go wrong for a fiver.” Looks like I was wrong.

UPDATE (10/13/2007): I never did come back to this game. Too bad. The Starforce copy protection on this thing seems even more absurd now. This game is available right now on for $0.75, which is more or less free, and people still don’t want it.


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4 thoughts on “Scrapland: Junky

  1. Wow, Descent. I loved that game (the first version, never played the second). I was actually good at it, or, at least, the robots were terrified of me whenever I’d fly at them.

  2. Gandaug says:

    Ok, this is a really late reply. I’ve been reading through the archives though. This post reminded me of the post about Prey and Shamus liking the demo for it. I found Prey at an EB Games for $5. If you haven’t played it, Shamus, and you get this reply then look around for Prey. That $5 investment won’t disappoint so much.

    Prey is by no means a great game, but it is good. If a bit repetitive by the end. For $5 though it’s a blast.

  3. Tacoma says:

    I’d argue that the difficulty of dealing with DRM constitutes a negative value to the consumer, depending on how much that consumer values system integrity, privacy, and control of his computer. I would propose that because the deal for 75 cents is still not good enough that everyone values DRM at a minimum of -$0.75. Since you didn’t think the game was worth $5 perhaps DRM is worth -$5 or more to you. This assumes of course that you consider the game to be worth equal the value of the time spent playing it (it has a base value to you of $0). If, like Scrapland, the game provided less enjoyment than the value of the time spent playing, and the DRM constituted a -$5 value, they might need to pay you a minimum of $15-$20 for you to want to play it.

  4. Steve says:

    And you can never go wrong with a freer!…*Remembers Halo* Actually maybe you can…Especially if the game is painful enough without the story…:(. But you can never go wrong if they give you money as well!…Okay depends on the game…Yeah…

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