Slam Bolt Scrappers Review
Slam Bolt Scrappers is one of those games you strive to love. You sit and enjoy the charming, colorful presentation and marvel at the multitude of good ideas. You tell yourself, “damn, this is a really good idea.” …but eventually, you just have to stop kidding yourself and realize the game is kinda broken, even if it remains playable and somewhat entertaining for a few hours. There isn’t anything glaringly bad; it’s just that the overall package feels a little chaotic and rushed, and with no option for online multiplayer (which would’ve been appreciated), the appeal begins to disappear all too quickly. Two other problems: 1. at the price of $14.99, there are a lot of great downloadable games out there, many of which are better options. 2. lack of accessibility for puzzle fanatics.
Graphically, this really is a cute little game. Vibrant colors leap off the screen and the special effects are sharp and fulfilling. The animations are smooth and there’s rarely any altering of the frame rate. But you’ll have seen most everything there is to see within the first hour, and the developer doesn’t really do enough with the backgrounds. There’s a repetitiveness that also afflicts the sound category; despite the bright, whimsical hues, it all gets old a little too fast. Plus, I’m not sure the positioning of the visuals is quite right: to elaborate, I often had trouble seeing what block my burly construction dude was carrying due to his position on the screen. Toss in some floating, attacking enemies and anything your opponent’s tower is throwing at you, and the visual presentation becomes a maelstrom of color…and that’s not always a good thing.
As I just said, the repetitiveness of the audio will get to you. Once again, it’s not about a quality deficiency, it’s just that we don’t have enough variety. The same sort of ditty accompanies most every stage and while the effects are fine, they too can get lost amidst the cacophony during intense periods of building and battling. If the sound proves anything, it shows that these designers may have tried to do too much. Perhaps a wee bit of simplification was required to settle things down; to give a certain addictive and alluring air to a game that can chafe. Don’t get me wrong: I liked both the soundtrack and the effects. But when you start to hear the same pieces of sound over and over, and that audio no longer adds a positive element to the experience, one is forced to view the situation as disappointing.
So here’s the idea, and I’m sure you’ll agree it has potential: take the building process of Tetris, allow formed blocks to become weapons and shields, throw in a competing block structure (or tower) that acts as an opponent, and toss in some enemies that, when defeated, will yield valuable blocks. It sounds way cool, doesn’t it? Some cartoony brawny construction dude flies around and drops the blocks where you wish; he can also beat on hovering enemies that can cause damage to both your character and the construction beneath you. Forming blocks of a certain color will grant you a specific weapon or attribute (like missiles or a paddle-ball…no, I won’t explain that), and the faster you build an effective, deadly tower, the better off you’ll be.
But boy, they really go all out. There are lots of different types of blocks to build, you have to keep beating on enemies to get certain blocks (along with skills that assist your mid-air butt-kicking), there are transparent blocks that allow you to remove a previously placed tile, and you still have to consider both offensive and defensive aspects of the battle in question. Once you’ve started the campaign, you’ll travel along a simple world map and once you’ve started a stage, you’ll begin the fast-paced process. It’s a quick-fire combination of dropping pieces of blocks to form same-colored squares and pounding hapless enemies (and even your foe) to gain the edge. There are boss battles, too, by the way. On the surface, all this sounds incredibly interesting, I’m sure, but I found the unexpected depth to be both vexing and irritating.
I mean, it just took way too long for me to gain a firm grasp of the gameplay and while I’m no expert, I do play a whole lot of games in any given year and I’m probably more capable than the average consumer. There was just too much to think about to be fun. That would be a strange statement if this was an RPG but as a simple puzzle/action hybrid, it should be immediately accessible. The screen almost doesn’t want to hold everything that’s going on, and you’re bound to feel a little overwhelmed right from the outset. In my estimation, those who pick up a downloadable title like this are looking for a relaxing, enjoyable, mildly challenging little game that allows the rainy-day hours to pass quickly. This game features a ton of great ideas but the final result is too mixed-up and frustrating to be representative of greatness.
Slam Bolt Scrappers is like the masterful LEGO construction you set out to create as a kid. Halfway through, you realized you were just trying to add too much, but convinced yourself that all your good ideas would gel in the end. Instead, the whole thing looked pretty for a few minutes, and then fell over. It was just too top-heavy. That’s what happened here: a lot of great concepts…too many great concepts, in fact, and the charming exterior and good control can’t save it. And what’s this about no online multiplayer? Really? The game only offers local four-player Battle Mode and while I didn’t play with three other people, I can only imagine what the screen must look like if four players are going at it at once. I could barely handle myself.
The Good: A bunch of fantastic ideas. Good control. Lots of fun strategy involved. Challenge is significant.
The Bad: Presentation and sound gets repetitive. Visibility often marred. Learning curve is too high. No online multiplayer.
The Ugly: “Okay, now what’s going on?!”
3/29/2011 Ben Dutka