The use of a tiny, cute robot as the main character is nothing new, particularly in the sci-fi genre. Nonetheless, be it Chibi-robo, Opus or the robot from Machinarium, they always seem to worm their way into our hearts. SCRAP is a run and jump platformer where you are a tiny, no-name robot with one wheel and a big head who just woke up. The game is set initially within a robotics factory on Earth in a dystopian distant future with our robotic protagonist deciding it preferred to escape than be taken wherever the conveyor belt was going. Developed by Polish studio Woodland Games, SCRAP has an elegantly clean artstyle with enough detail to catch the eye but not so much as to distract you as you run and run and run.
Waking up just in time
The controls are simple, your character automatically runs forward and you must carefully time jumps or double jumps (A) up onto boxes or platforms with dropping down through platforms (B) to dodge an increasing array of obstacles such as touch sensitive mines, open electrical current, laser beams and even some spinning blades (what kind of security is this?). Touching any of these hazards turns your little robot friend into literal scrap. There are also various kinds of big red robots that bleep alien expletive text at you before shooting at you with lasers. “#&*%?!$” to you, too!
As you are traversing platforms and dodging hazards there is the added task of collecting blue cells, with a variable number of them per level. There are no explanations for hazards or things that are actually helpful, leaving you to experiment and discover what happens to your little metal body if you touch various objects. An example of this is a jet of steam that is actually a helpful feature, pushing you in the direction of the steam and giving you a potential boost between widely spaced platforms if timed correctly, or possibly pushing you towards your doom.
Temporary power-ups in the form of coloured floating orbs start to appear in different varieties as you progress, including a shield (green), cell magnet (light blue) and speed boost (yellow). There is a definite risk versus reward with the power-ups because some of the symbols are fairly nondescript, with no on screen labeling, and it’s not always clear what the power-up is going to be when you see a new one. For example one power-up turns you into a ball and allows you to roll under low hazards temporarily but renders you unable to properly jump in an otherwise very ‘jumpy’ game.
Get the bleep back here
There are checkpoints within each level and they’re generous to start with, decreasing with each world to increase the challenge, which is a great design choice. They thankfully aren’t obnoxious or distracting enough to trip you up, just a little arrow-shaped sign that will ping and light up. You don’t have to touch the sign either; just pass it anywhere on the screen.
Timing is everything in run and jump-style games and trigger happy fingers are definitely not going to help you here. Mistime a double jump and you may land on a hazard or fall down a pit between platforms. This becomes even more of a challenge as the speed of your little robot friend increases as you progress through the game, which is very noticeable when you return to the early levels. This increase in speed is a neat way of increasing the difficulty but it is done in such a way that it doesn’t stab you in the eye with unwanted difficulty spikes. The difficulty is not so high that someone with little experience with the genre will tear their hair out, though learning through trial and error will be required. While you can pause the action, a word of warning; when you return to the game it makes your character jump for some reason which, in the wrong place, could be fatal.
The UI is clean and simple, but one little pet peeve I had was with the way it takes you all the way out to the title screen when returning to the menu instead of back to the level select screen, which is what I wanted. The game scrolls very smoothly for the most part, but in the final levels there is a slight shudder, likely due to the increased amount of hazards on screen. If you do happen to die the reload time is pleasingly fast and after you complete a level you can quickly continue onto the next.
The music starts off very chill and uplifting and subtly changes per level, with more significant changes between worlds. You will continue to hear the same xylophone tune woven in as you progress which gives all of the music an encouraging feeling, despite your surroundings. The beat and power to the music gradually increase towards the end, cheering you on to supposed freedom. Your robotic buddy giving you some cute droidy chirps whenever you complete a level or collect a power up also adds character.
Each level has an array of standard tasks such as finishing the level, the good ol’ ‘don’t die’, as well as collecting a certain number of cells and performing a certain number of jumps. While the cells provide a completionist angle, they don’t do anything other than that which seems like a missed opportunity. The game is split into three worlds (Factory, Steamworks and Junkyard), each containing ten levels and bonus level if you 100% complete the world. There is a cute little cutscene between worlds, linking previous areas to the first level of the next. If you replay the first level you can skip the cutscenes. The game menu also changes to the theme of the world last played which is a nice touch.
The direness of your escape becomes more apparent when you reach world three and see a ‘dead or alive’ sign with your cute robotic face on it. Graffiti stating ‘freedom’ and ‘set robots free’ makes you wonder what these robots are made to do and the state of this futuristic Earth. The state of the future however, and what happens to your little buddy currently remain unanswered. This is potentially due to a completely new world with eleven additional levels (to a total of 44) that is coming soon. Best part, it’s FREE! I hope they add a final cutscene because finishing the game is currently extremely anticlimactic.
By the end of SCRAP you will be attached to the little robotic friend that you accidentally blew up many, many times. I am not an avid player of the run and jump genre yet I found this title to offer up enough of a challenge whilst still being fun. Experienced players may potentially find this title a little on the easy side, but if you aim to 100% everything I think you’ll still find SCRAP an enjoyable and replayable experience. It’s a fairly short experience with the campaign taking roughly 3-4 hours to complete, but with a new world with eleven new levels incoming I feel like the current price point is right. A few negatives aside, the evolving progression of the game makes trying to avoid turning a little robot into scrap a fun experience.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch // Review code supplied by publisher