Robots kick shiny metal ass. From the pimping thievery of Bender to the murderous AI routines of the T-1000, our android buddies have been consistently invading popular culture for nearly a century. Taking advantage of this continuing affection for the clinking of cogs and camshafts, Spanish company Mercury Steam is creating the third-person sci-fi action-adventure Scrapland, set on a robotic asteroid world created from the discarded and rusting metal from a long-gone human civilisation.
Buffing The Droid
Since we last saw a glimpse of the game back in issue 123, mildly renowned developer American McGee (of Doom and Alice fame) has joined the team, adding a sprinkling of his twisted humour to the characters and storyline. You play through the game as D-Tritus, a kind of robotic Guybrush Threepwood, who arrives at Scrapland looking for work, and is eventually offered a job considered the worse in the universe - journalist.
Scrapland is structured very much like Grand Theft Auto, with a huge world to explore, as well as structured missions, races and hidden challenges. However, instead of a gritty urban setting, Scrapland has an impressive and actually quite beautiful Blade Runner/Tron future-scape. Its mixture of indoor and outdoor locations are populated by hundreds of NPCs going about their business - avoiding police, blasting each other in flying ships, nightclubbing, running various businesses and gambling.
D-Tritus can fly about the world in his ship, completing bizarre missions that range from destroying other craft for a robot called the Crazy Gambler, to sneaking into a high security building to take photos of a murdered android Archbishop - don't ask, it's all part of the plot. When on foot you can interact with any character - having conversations, getting advice, learning more about Scrapland - all shot through with a sense of humour reminiscent of the Monkey Island adventures and Matt Groening's Futurama, with banks of cheeky machines, camp computers and sarcastic silicon chips.
The most original aspect of Scrapland though, has to be the Great Database, which is a back-up for robots, imbued with religious significance, that keeps
a copy of everyone and instantly restores any machine lifeform if they die. More importantly, the Great Database is later used by D-Tritus to "steal" other personalities, transforming you into more than a dozen other characters with unique powers, including a sexy assistant called Betty who can cause a huge explosive wave, and a chief of police who can, erm, belch loudly.
Pedal To The Metal
Although some futuristic games can seem rather cold, Scrapland has a great deal of potential, with zippy ships to pilot around the neon cityscapes, nonsensical mini-games, colourful characters and snappy wise-ass dialogue. American McGee has obviously had a big influence on the direction of the game, which so easily could have been an impenetrable mess, but now might have the makings of a cult classic. We'll get into the nuts and bolts of Scrapland next issue with a full review. In the meantime, check out the hot 'bots for yourself with the playable demo on this month's DVD. Biddy biddy biddy.