It’s hard to shine in the scrapheap
It doesn’t matter about the size of your engine, the top speed or the size of the smile on the Michelin Man gracing your tyres, stick a gun on any vehicle and it’ll be enough to shut up Jeremy Clarkson and give The Stig something to say at the same time. It’s an addition that never finds its way into many showrooms, so please welcome to the grid Scrap Metal, the deformed and long forgotten twin brother of Micro Machine’s that’s been left tethered in the attic all too long.
Placing you in God eye view of several malicious machinations, Scrap Metal gives you a very simple ‘Do or Die’ prerogative, making it your job to out speed your opponents across the finish line…or slay them on the way there. It’s clear from the lack of a single race mode that there’s a lot more to events than simply dashing as fast as possible dreaming of first, and nothing that a rocket launcher and basic knowledge of parallel parking can’t solve.
All courses pose challenging obstacles to overcome, mainly in the form of tons of corners to skid around. Landing on a track forces players to adapt quickly to it or end up the roof side off of it. All are designed to complement the smooth controls and drift capabilities of all the vehicles, which is a shame when it’s spoilt by a rocket up the asphalt. But hey, that’s life when you’re behind the wheel of a monstrous killing machine.
Sometimes a good choice of weapon is all that is necessary, however. If you choose to race, you can idly park up and let rip at anything that passes. Any vehicle that takes too much damage is turned into ‘SCRAP METAL!’ and automatically your property. Take out all of the racers and you’ve won the race outright, and the trend doesn’t stop when it comes to any other events that’ll move you up the career ladder. ‘Demolition Derbies’ involve a level head embroidered in mass murder and ‘Boss Battles’ follows the same suit, just with bigger cars to blow up. The variation in events is spoilt by ‘VIP’ missions, stigmatic gameplay events where the player must escort a ‘friendly’ partner constantly under fire by nasty gangsters. Your AI bud seems to be all too friendly, however, in the aspect that he’ll happily grind, potter alongside and maypole dance around your adversaries.
A brisk 20 minutes of play now and again keep the game from going completely stale
Bizarre gameplay choices also scarper what there is to be enjoyed in the rest of the game. Despite being armed to the teeth, opponents seemed more focused on dog piling me every metre or so, making the frantic pace dwindle away any possible frenzy. Still, these are actually some impressively cleaver tactics, seeing as all the vehicles are practically bulimics on wheels. One light tap of an obstacles will send you spinning or even flying out of control like a kitten caught in one of Brian Blessed’s sneezes, constantly posing the question ‘Is my car made out of springs?’ A well placed projectile makes Scrap Metal a cake walk, yet peculiar programming implements occasionally ramp up the difficulty unannounced, naturally making progress bewildering and frustrating. Frustrating to the point where you’ll be asking if something lacking clear need of polish really deserved 1200 Microsoft Points.
Longevity truly doesn’t work out in Scrap Metal’s favour, even with pals to face off against on and offline. Content is relatively slim, and although there is a strong amount of events to take part in, they all take part on the same 8 courses that refuse to evolve. Add the limited amount of courses with around 8 laps in each event, and it soon feels overplayed before its time. The impressive sounding 20 vehicle roster is spoilt by the fact that you can only hold 4 cars at one time. If you ever wish to change your line-up, you’ll have to get rid of one of your previous cars that have probably gone through some extensive upgrading.
Shortcomings and a lack of minor yet influential tweaks don’t leave Scrap Metal unplayable, but keep it a bay from notable mention in the ever expanding XBLA Marketplace. The lack of depth and limited awards do however make it a good ‘Bitesize’ title. Play through about an hour and gameplay elements that seemed impressive at first begin to fall apart, yet a brisk 20 minutes of play now and again keep the game from going completely stale, glorifying it in a masochistic persona that it found too hard to maintain. Play it whilst waiting for a taxi. Play it whilst waiting for dinner. Just don’t play it minutes before a Sunday drive.
The Bad: Courses aren’t aesthetically pleasing or majorly interesting, Only 4 out of 20 vehicles can be held the same time, gets repetitive incredibly quickly