SCRAPS—a robotic puzzler with attitude and humor

Posted: September 30, 2009 in Puzzle

Puzzles make up a majority of the games in the iTunes store. No matter what your interest or personal taste, there’s a good chance that something will appeal to you. A new game called SCRAPS caught my eye because it involves robots and explosions, and good bit of humor. Fortunately, the gameplay is just as good and even addicting in some cases, thanks to the number of built-in and community-developed levels.

You face the task of retrieving energy pods located in mostly difficult to reach places, and your primary tools are SCRAPS (Specialty Construct: Robotic Articulated Property Salvage). SCRAPS are robots with a bit of attitude and dry humor, but also multifaceted in their functionality. The best and possibly worst part is they are at your command for your use, abuse and sacrifice.

The game takes place in 40 levels across 3 different locales: Enter the City, Central Alien Transport, and Depths Revisited. A 4 locale called Engine Room is planned in a future update. Additional levels are available online through the SCRAPS community, and a level editor is included so you can create your own levels and submit them for others to download. The 40 built-in levels, however, will keep you plenty busy in the meantime.

Visually, the game has some decent 2D graphics, and they run smoothly on my iPod Touch 2g 3.0. The synthesized soundtrack can be a little grating after prolonged play, but you can turn it off and play your own music.

SCRAPS will automatically move when they appear through the door on each level, and part of your challenge is to quickly assess the environment to determine which one of the three SCRAP functions to activate. By tapping on a SCRAP, three commands appear:

Explode—turns a SCRAP into a bomb to destroy platforms.
Activate—commands a SCRAP to push switches
Repair—becomes a platform to create or replace destroyed ones

The controls are simple and rather easy to use. Of course, the catch and challenge is knowing when and where to use them, but in general, these controls are well done. The speed at which SCRAPS travel can also be adjusted in the Options section so if you’re a glutton for punishment, or apathetic to sacrificing SCRAPS, you can ratchet up the speed.

The devs included a good dose of humor through the use of the dialog box at the bottom of the screen. Here, you can view commentary from the various SCRAPS, most of which are usually antagonizing, thus making their sacrifice that much easier.

The puzzles themselves start out relatively easy. The first locale, Enter the City, consists of 10 tutorial levels. One of the things that I like is the presentation. Before you begin a level, a small demonstration to show the basic skills needed that you can play and re-play. In addition, there is replay shown of how to solve the puzzle for each completed level. This is presented in a non-obstructive way, and frankly, it’s a good concept that other devs may want to consider in their tutorials.

Since you have a limited number of SCRAPS to use, sacrifice, abuse, etc. which is indicated on the door for each level, you’ll need to be smart about how to go about securing the energy pods. Missing platforms will require turning a SCRAP into a floor tile for other SCRAPS to cross. Other times, SCRAPS will need to operate switches to turn on energy fields, activate elevators, and change the direction of conveyors, some of which are color coded complicating the matter. And for others, it will involve the supreme sacrifice of exploding to break through walls and platforms.

The gameplay itself can be addicting since you’ll want to complete as many levels as possible. In some ways, SCRAPS is an exercise in babysitting since they tend to go off on their own in a rather unintelligent way. Don’t be surprised if they take a long walk off a short pier which will be your primary concern. But the real-time decision-making is what many puzzlers will enjoy with some requiring dexterity and a little luck. As is typical of these types of games, patience is a virtue with SCRAPS because many of the levels require a roundabout approach to complete them. But at least you’ll have the funny commentary from existing SCRAPS before they’re blown to oblivion.

The level editor is a nice addition and easy to use. You can create and design levels on your device and then upload and share them with the SCRAPS community. There are a number of user-submitted puzzles with comments which should help with the replay value of SCRAPS. A slight annoyance is the appearance of online scores and game requests on the main menu for the devs’ other games. It serves as a blatant ad which only clutters up the screen.

SCRAPS is polished puzzler that includes a number of worthy elements including easy-to-use and responsive controls, and mini-tutorial videos that I think more devs may want to incorporate into their own games. SCRAPS may not get the attention it deserves, but those who give this a try may find themselves an entertaining gem.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (fun puzzler with some innovative touches; the mechanics of the game are easy, but the gameplay offers challenge; good number of built-in levels with more through the user community)


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