It’s not uncommon to feel different.
Being an outcast in some way or another, all of us are unique individuals who process the world around us differently. Whether it be various likes and dislikes, hobbies, or even our physical characteristics, all of us are entirely separate from one another, but in all honesty, it’s those differences that make us who we are. It’s those “odd” things about us that help define parts of our whole. Differences are something to be celebrated and embraced, which is why stories of underdogs or ugly ducklings are sometimes the most inspirational and heartwarming. Scrap Garden, I feel, is exactly that on several levels.
The product of Flazm Interactive’s Egidijus Bachur and Alexey Davydov, Scrap Garden tells the story of a robot named Canny who is the only one of his kind to survive a terrible event because he was built differently from all the other robots around him. As he wakes up, he slowly unravels the truth of what happened, why it happened, and what he has to do to help rebuild the once great society he was a part of. An adventure/platformer through and through, Scrap Garden gives off the essence of older titles like Spyro and Banjo Kazooie with collectibles and secret areas in each stage to encourage the player to explore every nook and cranny each level has to offer. Just like characters of those older titles, Canny is a fun, lovable protagonist who has plenty of personality even though he can’t speak, or at least you can’t understand his beeps and bloops. Canny’s adventure takes place in 8 chapter locations, with most being one or two connected explorable areas, followed by a boss fight, then finished with a quick environmental puzzle, with a few minigames littered here and there for variety. I was able to complete the story in only 2 hours, but there were still a few collectibles and other hidden content I needed to collect at that time. While not difficult, I found Scrap Garden to be a quick, yet easily replayable title.
Canny himself controls rather well, with a modest pace coupled with the ability to double jump, enabling you to reach hard to get to ledges. The camera felt a little bit floaty, as it shifts left or right before actually rotating around your player model. This was a little disorientating at first, especially due to the extremely short field of vision, but I adapted after the first few areas. The environments, and the title itself, remind me of claymation shows like Wallace and Gromit. Many details are present and fill the world, but the robots, being solid pieces of metal, are stiff looking, but appear soft, perhaps due to a filter. This helps make a cold world look and feel a little more inviting. Even scarier levels seemed a little welcoming due to the style. While Canny and many of the characters throughout are fairly well animated, most common enemies are lifeless, seemingly all operating on the same animation loop of slowly hopping toward the player. As the focus of Scrap Garden is on exploring and interacting with the world, this becomes a minor gripe.
The musical accompaniment created for Scrap Garden is quite enjoyable.
Typically a solo piano part with whimsical melodies filled the silence of a long abandoned city street or cold mountain pass. Some, unfortunately, were on small loops that quickly became repetitive, but most were varied enough to create a soothing, relaxed atmosphere. The sudden change to spooky strings and ambiance was certainly a jarring moment in my playthrough when I first entered the deserted City Hall building, but it kept me on edge, even scaring me when I fell through the floor on one section. Overall the music of Scrap Garden was created with specific purpose and emotions in mind, and it shows. Sadly, not all the sounds I heard were particularly welcomed. Sound effects seemed to be generic stock boings and thuds. The narration and character voices within are oddly portrayed, many sounding as though they were recorded in a large open room, with plenty of reverb. None of the sounds were completely out of place, nor was the voice acting difficult to hear, just peculiar when you first take a listen. Despite this, the title plays smoothly and sounds sync as they should throughout.
Putting all of this together, Scrap Garden feels like a final school project, but also feels like a promise of something more.
As the underdog, Scrap Garden is an outsider when honestly compared to other greater titles in its genre. Canny and his world doesn’t have the polish and mirror sheen that Donkey Kong or Crash Bandicoot did when they came out, but what it does have that those titles share is heart. The narrative, while oddly paced and sometimes jumpy, is full of great meaning, while being simple enough for a child to understand. The story of something small and insignificant being given the responsibility of something as overwhelming as bringing back an entire civilization is by no means new, but the way it’s expressed, as an adventure this child of a robot goes on, is certainly unique and memorable.
Scrap Garden is not just the product of two developers but is their labor of love. So much heart and warmth are expressed within its code, from the entertaining and clumsy main character, to the touches of details in the world, to the fully narrated story. Is Scrap Garden one of the best platformers I’ve ever played? No. Is it one of the greatest tales I’ve ever heard? No. But what it is, is a feeling of nostalgia, something homemade, something I’m glad I was able to take part in. As a promise of something more, I only hope its developers continue making games with the same creative input and desire. While Scrap Garden may not be the breakthrough title they were possibly hoping for, it is certainly a title they can be proud their names are attached to.
Scrap Garden is the perfect adventure platformer to introduce children to the genre: The mechanics, while basic, are all in place, the levels are all varied and ready to be explored, and the story is coherent and age appropriate. While lacking in difficulty, the title is a solid play that anyone can enjoy. It’s simple enough for anyone to appreciate, but only those who pay attention will ever truly understand.