Scrap Riders is a grimy and hilarious survival game, deftly balancing interactive investigative segments with action packed beat-em-up gauntlets. The Scrap Riders, a gang of motorcycle-riding outlaws, set out across a ruined landscape where America has ceased to exist in order to reclaim something of theirs. As the underdogs try to come together, they’ll find themselves at odds with both sides of the spectrum as the law and criminal underworld come to oppose them.
Scrap Riders rotates between two game modes, investigation and combat. Investigation consists of moving around various as Rast, a loveably crass character with a passion for heavy drinking and cracking skulls. You’ll gather information and items by talking to other characters and checking out your surroundings. There are a multitude of questions to ask each character in order to find out the information you need, and the dialogue in these exchanges is quite funny. The game employs meta humor in a manner I enjoyed; as the setting is a post-apocalyptic future, records of the pop culture we know today are fuzzy at best, and thus the references to them are sort of pieced together and only half correct. The downside is that a lot of this information ends up being more or less useless. Each non-playable character will only have one or two pieces of information you’ll need maximum. There’s something to be said here for the investigative nature, letting players feel like they’re truly solving a mystery. This is undercut somewhat by the fact that there’s no kind of penalty for choosing the wrong dialogue path, even if you make the character mad. I also would’ve really enjoyed it if there was more to do with the information given, being able to use everything a character had to say to your advantage, rather than just one piece of information.
Navigating these sections is a bit sluggish. Rast’s movement speed is quite slow, even when running. Areas with multiple levels, like the Scrap Rider’s mothership, are aggravating to get around. Even when the dialogue is funny and the story is engaging, simply moving around these bigger sections sometimes took me out of the fun I was having. I found myself longing for an investigation style more similar to that of Phoenix Wright. Being able to quickly toggle between various locations without having to actually travel there felt much cleaner, and in spite of how appealing the pixel art locations are here, I find myself wishing that approach had been considered.
The combat sections are a complete win, in my opinion. You’re given multiple beat-em-up style attacks, including light and heavy attacks, dodges, air attacks, and projectiles. You also have the ability to combo your light and heavy attacks with different button presses/orders. Combat is quick, responsive, and just feels incredible to work with. Attacks are so snappy, and with the tight sprite work and crisp sound design, combos feel unbelievably satisfying to pull off. Boss fights are a particular highlight, with attack sequences just complex enough to require good dodging ability.
The only issue here is that there is significantly less time spent brawling than there is investigating, and I think I’ve made clear which I preferred. I think this may have been a slight misstep in design overall. I would’ve enjoyed it more if there were brief investigative settings paving the way for long and involved combat levels, rather than the other way around.
The story is legitimately enjoyable, I’m not saying I want the focus drastically reduced. As I mentioned earlier, it’s quite funny and the darker aspects focusing on the downfall of society have an enticing amount of depth. For how much the investigative sections can drag, however, I think a good chunk of the story could’ve been relegated to cutscenes and given way for more combat.
As the game stands, though, Scrap Riders is still a great time. It looks fantastic, it’s funny, there’s a lot of fun to be had here, it’s enough of a good overall package that I think it’s worth overlooking any weak areas the game may have. You won’t regret going for a ride!
Brendan Trump is a features writer and game reviewer for GoNintendo. His opinions about everything are entirely correct.