PSN Review – Slam Bolt Scrappers

March 31, 2011Written by Max Murray

Slam Bolt Scrappers is easily described as a mix between Tetris and Streets of Rage, as unimaginable as that sounds. The goal is simple; you must organize different towers on your playing field in order to overpower and destroy your opponent’s base. What’s not simple however, is the many other objectives and actions all requiring your attention at the same time. Flying around the map, collecting building blocks, gaining power ups, rearranging your base, beating up baddies and performing quick-time button prompts are all familiar elements to the average gamer – but we guarantee you’ve never played a title that asks you to do them all at the same time, especially not the way SBS does.

Slam Bolt Scrappers puts you in control of a flying worker charged with the task of collecting colored blocks and organize them on your building surface in order to create powerful structures capable of attacking your opponent’s base, or offering defense for your own. Building blocks are dropped by small flying baddies that need a good beat down before they relinquish the goods. Meanwhile, your enemy will be competing against you for building pieces, attacking and distracting you from improving your base, or even knocking you out to steal all the unplaced blocks you may be hauling around. Without getting into the array of weapon types and optional power ups, the potential to become overwhelmed is ever present.  You’ll quickly realize that there is a lot going on, and without the developers putting a strong emphasis on multiplayer, this entire game could have crashed and burned into one gigantic, chaotic mess.

The game is split up into two sections, campaign and battle mode. Campaign mode does a great job of introducing you to the Slam Bolt world as it lays out each level with new elements instead of thrusting you into the fray all at once. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock new building block types and discover more power ups and enemies. The best levels though, are the ones that change the fundamentals of the game, such as levels with multiple playing surfaces, levels with no building blocks and only power ups, or final bosses. These are the levels that puzzle-lovers will return to as they challenge you to stop playing in one style, and adopt entirely new strategies. The biggest issue with the campaign mode, however, is how blatantly short it is. With an insulting 14 levels, you’ll beat it by yourself in less than 2 hours.

Luckily, you and up to three other friends can play through any of the campaign levels together. This certainly adds life to the journey, but most importantly, it significantly helps on harder difficulties and frantic levels. There will be times when even the best micro-manager will feel insignificant to all the actions harping for his attention. This is when you pass out the extra Dualshocks. Bring your friends into the mess, and you can allocate jobs to specific people. Put one person on block collecting and placing, one on rearranging and base organization, one on offense and enemy distraction, and the last on baddie clean up, and watch the disorganized nightmare quickly become a well oiled, unstoppable machine. Even with just two players, the pressure is immediately lifted, yet still offering plenty challenge.

This was clearly a game designed to be played with friends, as becomes obvious with the game’s battle mode, which is a multiplayer romp with up to four people. You can choose the number of block types and engage in team battles or a classic free for all. It may be hard to imagine, but put four experienced players/friends against each other and we guarantee the potential for one of the most competitive multiplayer matches you’ve ever seen. However, with four players on screen at once, pitted against an additional four enemies, things can certainly become frantic and cluttered. It’s probable that you’ll lose your character in the midst of it all; something that not even the best planning could relieve. The bright color scheme contributes almost entirely to the confusion, as it can become impossible to find your character after losing track of them, or seeing what pieces you’re currently holding. Nevertheless, these barely take away from the overall enjoyment the multiplayer brings to the game.

With this in mind, the biggest issue with SBS is the exclusion of any online capabilities. Unfortunately, online play of any kind is completely absent, and in an era where online co-op and multiplayer matches are the biggest proponent and longevity factor for PSN titles, a multiplayer title to be without even a leaderboard is inexcusable. We’re left dreaming of an online mode that capitalizes on multiple TVs in order to alleviate the headaches and frustration by clearly distinguishing your character and blocks from the rest of the characters.

As for the presentation of Slam Bolt Scrappers, the game feels exactly like playing a long lost N64 title, which may or may not be a bad thing. The graphics are simple and have a blocky cartoon appearance, while the music sounds like it’s straight out of an old Rare title, like Diddy Kong Racing or Banjo Kazooie. A borderline obnoxious brass section plays alongside a cheesy percussive organ for a ‘tropical’ style soundtrack. It can get repetitive at times, especially when it loops every 20 seconds or so, but for what the game is trying to achieve, it doesn’t interfere too heavily and certainly fits with the light heartedness.

Slam Bolt Scrappers serves its course as a good multiplayer title but feels incomplete, especially at its current price of $15. At a little more than a dollar a level, there is tremendous opportunity for a complete world of creative level design that you’ll feel cheated out of.  Nevertheless, SBS gets a lot right, and stands out from the long crowd of tile puzzlers with its unique pairing of simultaneous action and combat style. It offers some excellent local co-op play and strategy elements, but with the abysmal campaign size, lack of online functionality or replay value, we can’t honestly recommend this to anyone except the die-hard puzzle fans or those with friends on hand, like kids or college students. Especially at its current price tag, our best recommendation is hold out for a patch for online multiplayer and a price drop.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Fun and challenging gameplay

– Missing online multiplayer

– Inexcusably short and incomplete campaign

6 out of 10