It can never be said enough: making video games is not an easy thing to do. Parsing lines of code and stringing them together in order to make a cohesive experience is a lot more difficult than it looks. In our modern gaming age where enormous studios are creating games like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5, it’s easy to forget that the game making process is an enormous one. That’s why little indie games like Scrap Garden are a rare treat.
Created by a teensy studio called Flazm, Scrap Garden is a charming 3D platformer that sees you following the life of a tiny robot named Canny. His adventure begins shortly after he awakes to see that the robot society he once knew has long since rusted over. In an attempt to unravel the mystery of what happened to the land he once called home, Canny embarks on a perilous journey throughout this “post-robocalyptic” world.
Upon starting the game, players will immediately notice that this is an incredibly amateur title. The voice acting is poorly done throughout and this is obvious immediately. It isn’t grating, but it combines with the rough writing to, quite often, be laughable. The broad strokes of the story are competently done, however. At all times you understand what Canny needs to do and why. Which, if we’re going to be honest, is more than one could say for a lot of games. Nevertheless it should be stated again that looking to Scrap Garden for an epic, emotional story is like looking to McDonald’s for a low calorie meal.
In addition to the awful acting, anyone starting the game would also notice that it isn’t that pretty. Textures are kind of rough, animations are super rough, and I would occasionally have weird shadows glitching out and stretching all over my screen. It’s all perfectly functional, however, and other than those sporadic shadow errors I never had anything pop up that ruined the visuals. Again, it reeks of amateur level work.
That may be the most adept word to describe Scrap Garden: amateur. Sound design is inconsistent, the environment will have miniature, undetectable, lumpy hills in it that keep Canny from being able to walk in a straight line, and Canny’s hitbox feels as if it changes whenever it wants. An enemy spider or rat will be on the other side of a level one second, and in the blink of an eye they could be right next to poor Canny and giving him the biggest beating of his life. It’s also weird to play a game where the transitions between scenes and levels stick out. Those transitions would wrestle control away and happen so abruptly that not only did I get whiplash, but I could feel my eyes slam into the back of my head each time.
“Didn’t you say at the beginning of this review that games like this are a rare treat? This kind of just sounds awful.” Glad that you’re paying attention, hypothetical reader. Yes, Scrap Garden is a messy showcase of amateur game design. However, it has more heart than almost everything I’ve played this year. It’s a game that was made by human beings that wanted to create something special. They had a cute, little story about a robot that they wanted to tell, and they set out to tell it. It didn’t matter to them that they weren’t 343 Studios or Playground Games. They created a game that they wanted to play.
I realize that just about every game out there was created by human beings that wanted to create something special, but Scrap Garden feels different. It was someone’s project that they poured hours and hours of time into. Like I said earlier, the story isn’t stupendous, but it’s easily charming enough to follow until the end. The hitbox around Canny may be wonky sometimes, but when it works, it works great. Jumping around has a nice weight to it, and there are some clever little puzzles here and there. There’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, but it’s done well enough. Actually, two of the game’s boss fights are rather exceptional. They happen later in the story, but I remember feeling quite impressed by the way in which you have to win those fights.
There’s more than enough content for the price, and there is so much love and effort put into the game’s world and main character that I feel confident in recommending Scrap Garden to those who absolutely love video games. If you’re someone who likes watching behind the scenes videos and interviews about the creation of games, or you just love seeing the myriad ways in which people express their artistic visions through this interactive medium, Scrap Garden’s massive heart more than makes up for its technical shortcomings.
Embark on Canny’s adorable adventure on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One now!