Given its massive success, it would have been easy for Slick Entertainment to produce another title in the same vein as their previous XBLA foray, N+.
But not this time.
Enter Scrap Metal, as radical a departure from a jumping Ninja as you could possibly get. A top down racing game, in Scrap Metal combat is just as important as the racing element. The viewpoint alone brings to mind the likes of the seminal title Micro Machines, with the combat of Twisted Metal thrown into the mix.
The player starts on the bottom rung of the ladder with a basic, but rather charming, 4×4 Beetle buggy. As events are entered and conditions met, bronze, silver and gold are awarded, with 10, 20 and 30 points added to the players reserves for meeting the criteria. Only a handful of garage slots are allowed, and new vehicles are unlocked as you progress, so the need to chop and change will become very familiar. Each vehicle comes with weapons attached, varying from standard machine gun emplacements, to flamethrowers and whirling blades, so there’s something to satisfy all destructive tastes.
Vehicles can also be tricked out with additional health, shields and handling abilities, allowing the player to hit their stride and enter events with more confidence. They’ll certainly need it, as some provide a decent challenge. Certain events require you to survive for a predetermined time under a barrage of bombs from a clown car (yes, you read that right, a clown car), or indulge in a demolition derby and the utter chaos that ensues. Littered around the tracks are power-ups which encompass everything from oil slicks, to super weapons that inflict devastating damage on opponents. After completing each series of events and a boss fight, the next series of events are opened up. A solid online mode rounds off affairs, focusing on winning races and demolishing opponents. It does a fair job of replicating the mayhem of the single player over Xbox LIVE for up to four players.
The controls can feel slightly awkward to begin with, since even the basic handling (which defaults to the Left Analogue stick providing all movement) can take a while to get used to. The advanced handling option is definitely worth a try, throwing in an e-brake that allows for a much more considered driving style, allowing sharper turning at speed and by far the best way to play the game. Once mastered, there is nothing quite like speeding around and nailing corners just right, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable for some to be left cold by the way cars handle in Scrap Metal.
While the player has no in-game identity per se, there is no lack of characters and an impressive art style throughout the game. While having bosses with names like Mr. Awesome might seem like it’s trying too hard to be funny, some of the characters you’ll encounter will produce a snigger or two. It`s hard not to chuckle with titles such as Heathcliff Hosepipe, Maggy Midsize and rounding off the *ahem* package, Mr. McHuge. Even if this type of humour can grate, you can appreciate the developers attempting to inject a light-hearted tone into proceedings. To have played it straight would have been a disaster.
That certain charm, to go along with Scrap Metal`s gameplay, just about carries it through the sixty odd events, even if by the end of it the player will feel slightly fatigued by it all. Slick Entertainment’s latest title certainly proves that pigeon-holing developers is never a good idea.