American McGee Presents: Scrapland – XB – Review

If the name
American McGee isn’t familiar to you that’s because you probably never played
the stellar PC classic American McGee’s Alice – a wonderfully twisted game where
Alice returns to Wonderland to assassinate the Queen of Hearts. If you do know
the name then you can understand my deep interest in American McGee Presents
Scrapland for the Xbox, a game that’s not only interesting but the type of game
that shouldn’t, by any means, be ignored if you like a game with a lot of heart
and plenty to do.

The center
character of Scrapland isn’t human. In fact, he isn’t even a living, breathing
creature. You play D-Tritus, a happy-go-lucky robot that just happens to land on
Chimera (known as Scrapland by the locals), a world inhabited by hundreds of
robots living without humans. A stranger to the world, D-Tritus is quickly
drafted into becoming a reporter and finds himself deeply involved in a murder
mystery with suspects to his left and right. Soon the robot finds himself
uncovering a number clues that leads to the world’s top political figures to the
religious Archbishop that controls the Great Database where robots are scanned
in order to be resurrected again should they die.

D-Tritus himself
quickly finds out that he has a number of abilities that can help him piece
together the murder mystery and the fact that you are free to roam about the
massive playing world means you have your work cut out for you. This freedom
also means you can complete the game’s main objectives at your own leisure and
take on side quests and missions. Early in the game you meet a nutty robot that
calls himself the Crazy Gambler who issues you challenges he calls Crazy Bets
and Super Crazy Bets. Such challenges have you destroying patrolling police
robots or racing against cocky pilots throughout the game’s world. You’re
rewarded with upgrade parts you can use to upgrade your ship.

Yes, you also
get a vehicle in the game since the environments are so huge they do require you
to hop on a ship to go from Point A to Point B when you’re asked to meet
somebody in other locations. You start off with a weak ship but will gain enough
money or parts that you’re able to fly back to Rusty’s Junkyard to upgrade
engines, weapons and even the ship’s hull. These upgrades are necessary if you
want to win the far more difficult races later on in the game or survive various
encounters that have you attempting to shoot down several gunships.

The missions on
foot vary as well since you’ll not only have to photograph certain things (much
like UbiSoft’s Beyond Good & Evil) but also bash a few robotic heads in with
your fists. D-Tritus has his own attack but the game’s best feature has him
changing into any robots that just so happen to cross his path. He can become
another robot, using said robot’s particular abilities to his advantage. For
example, turn into a sneaky Banker robot and you’ll gain that robot’s ability to
steal from other robots. Turn into a Functionary droid and you’ll be able to
distort time to your advantage. To change back, all D-Tritus has to do is find a
specific location where he can change back. You’ll also be chased by the police
who can be relentless in their search for you.

Death in
Scrapland is not a big deal as well thanks to the Archbishop and the Great
Database. D-Tritus is scanned early in the game and is told that if he should
die the Great Database restores him back to life … for a price, of course.
This means if you should die in the game, you can be restored as if nothing had
happened. Just make sure you have enough money because you’ll die somewhat
regularly throughout the game.

You won’t worry
about dying, though, because the biggest threat in this game is completing
missions. You’ll have plenty of missions to complete and often times you’ll be
starting a mission all over again if you so happen to fail an objective, and
this is where the game’s weaknesses shows up. Some missions have multiple
objectives and you’ll feel somewhat overwhelmed by them. Yet this could have
been tolerable had the mission objectives been far more diverse. Oftentimes
you’ll feel as though you’re repeating the same mission you passed a few
missions ago. Secondly, the flight controls aren’t as smooth as they should be –
especially in a game with lots of races. Combat could have been a real pain but
the Lock On feature does help out. As for D-Tritus’ fighting abilities, he
doesn’t lock on the way he should have, and this results in a lot of missing. 

At least there’s
a multiplayer mode, even though the mode is for two players only. The
multiplayer modes offer four mode types: DeathMatch, Flag Hunt, One Flag and
Race. DeathMatch has you seeking out a friend on a ship with each kill winning
you a point. Flag Hunt has you seeking out a flag before your friend does while
One Flag has you picking up a single flag and has you flying it over a
designated area to win the point. Race has you and a friend racing through the
game’s many maps such as the Old Mine or the Shopping Mall. It’s not bad but the
game could have been great with up to four or more players.


Scrapland is actually quite a beautiful-looking game with environments that will
have you marveling at its bright and flashy appearance. The world seems alive
and watching robots go about their business or the traffic boom on the outside
is quite nice to look at when you’re just standing still. The character models
are also good to the point that each robot has his or her own personality. D-Tritus
himself is a unique-looking robot and it’s fun watching him fawn over the
shapely Betty. The only problem is that there are a few glitches in the graphics
such as pop-ups and some stutter during animations.

As for the
game’s sound, the voice acting is well done. You’ll find it hard to dislike D-Tritus’s
cheerfulness even when he’s talking about smashing robots into nuts and bolts.
The game has plenty of humor and it’s thanks to the game’s witty, charming and
sometimes awkward dialogue. The sound effects work nicely in the game as well
and listening to the clank with each step D-Tritus takes is a nice touch indeed.
Even the game’s score is wonderfully cinematic.

Scrapland turns
out to be quite a gratifying adventure game with an appealing story, fun
characters and a good dose of all the things we like about this genre. Its
attempt to blend driving-and-shooting and on-foot action is nice, even though
there are a few flaws that hold the game back just a little. Still, don’t let
this sway you from experiencing the game. I highly recommend you rent this one.

Review Scoring
Details for American McGee Presents Scrapland

Gameplay: 7.0
The game
throws many interesting concepts but, unfortunately, many of the things that
could have made this game a real blast are somewhat hindered by the controls.
Ships don’t fly as smoothly as they should, even with the ship upgrades and D-Tritus
just can’t hit anything. Thankfully you can change into other robots and use
their abilities.

Graphics: 8.0
A few
graphical glitches aside, this is a great-looking Xbox game. The massive
environments are strikingly gorgeous, and there are plenty of beautiful visual
effects throughout the game. Even the characters look good in action or during
cutscenes, but there’s the occasional pop-up and stutter.

Sound: 8.2
The game’s
score is wonderfully cinematic and the voice acting is actually very enjoyable
although occasionally the dialogue goes from charming to just a bit awkward.
Still, listening to robots banter and complain about their lives is comedic

The game piles
on the missions and many of them are quite challenging, particularly the races
later on in the game. The Crazy Gambler also doesn’t make his Crazy Bets too
easy to complete so expect a single bet to contain three or four objectives to
complete within each bet. Whew!

Concept: 7.6

attempts to mix flight with the kind of third-person action reserved for the
Grand Theft Auto crowd, and – for the most part – does a decent job. Turning
into other robots is a good idea. There’s a lot of Scrapland to explore on foot
or via ship.

multiplayer mode is strictly a two-player affair with four different game modes
that range from your average DeathMatch and Race modes. The action is
split-screen and there are plenty of playable maps that will keep gamers more
than busy. Too bad there’s no online gameplay; this one could have been fun with
up to six or eight players online.

Overall: 8.0
Far from
perfect, Scrapland is still a pleasantly enjoyable romp with great characters
and just enough action to make this one worth playing. Had the controls been a
bit more responsive for the ship-flying portions and the robot smashing just a
tad more smoother, we would have had the perfect robot action game this side of
Metal Arms: Glitch in the System.