Scraps is a vehicular combat game along the lines of classics Interstate ‘76 and Twisted Metal, except you design and build your whip before taking to the badlands to kick up dust and turn other players to rust. A work in progress from tiny New Zealand developer Moment Studio, it’s similar to Robocraft, but it actually predates that title by several months.

The goal is to obliterate your foes before they turn your ride into its component parts. You can do this in the traditional way – at ramming speed – or by the not-quite-so-legal on city streets (outside of LA, at least) deployment of high-calibre weaponry. Success at vehicular manslaughter in Scraps is reliant on driving and shooting prowess, but also on leveraging your vehicle’s strengths, while minimising its weaknesses. This generally means lining up your sights by moving your car and rotating your turrets, while also being mindful of the location of other vehicles and any chinks in your armour.

Scraps: The Kiwi car combat game that could

Gameplay is perfectly functional, but limited in scope. Most combat happens at pretty low speed, and will generally see two or more vehicles going at it guns blazing at spitting distance. Dismantling your enemies isn’t just for fun, however: there’s also profit in it. The titular scrap damaged and defeated foes leave behind is crucial for repairing and upgrading your vehicle, and this is where things in Scraps start to get very interesting indeed.

It’s possible to teleport out of an arena to the editor from special points on the map any time you like, so stopping your enemies from gathering scrap isn’t just about keeping score – if they accumulate too much, they’ll upgrade themselves right out of your league, and you’ll have no chance whatsoever when they roll into your sights.

Scraps: The Kiwi car combat game that could
Scraps: The Kiwi car combat game that could

The game’s built-in editor is a thing of beauty. All building and modifying is handled via an editing interface that’s extremely easy to use, yet packed full of options. That makes assembling and modifying vehicles is a snap, and you have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a ride to suit your play style. Want to avoid all the bullets? Pile on the engines. Prefer to pump out the pain yourself? Fit guns all over the place and get busy. Want to bore would-be attackers into finding another target? Cover your car in armour and you’ll be harder to kill than a cockroach (while moving at the speed of a worm).

Vehicles and components use different patterns of mounting points reminiscent of Lego, and you can line them up nearly anyway you want to. Just be wary of leaving important things like engines exposed, because they can be targetted and destroyed, crippling your ride.

Scraps: The Kiwi car combat game that could

Then there are the matters of weight versus acceleration and speed, and functionality versus aesthetics. The variety of possible builds are enormous, and creative types will have a blast cobbling together weird and wonderful creations to freak out or impress opponents. The physics in the game are well-implemented too, so you must be mindful of the centre of gravity of your 'car' – especially given the hilly terrain that makes up much of the combat arenas.

Scraps entered Early Access on Steam at the start of July, and while everything works smoothly, it’s clear there’s plenty of work still required to get the game where it needs to be for a full release. While the editor itself is polished, deep, and impressive, the gameplay itself is still pretty basic; there are just three maps (none of which are particularly interesting), and at this stage, rolling around shooting things lacks verve and excitement.

It’s worth emphasising at this point that what’s here is incredibly impressive considering it’s largely the work of one obviously talented man in Bill Borman, and that the game is pretty cheap too. But even so, Scraps is up against some stiff competition. Hopefully, once Moment has more time to expand the combat, the package as a whole will really start to sing. In the meantime, if you want a masterclass on how to build a vehicle editor, that alone is worth the NZ$19 asking price.