Atari was forced to play catch-up and scrambled to produce a decent game for the under appreciated Lynx and 7800 systems. The result? Scrapyard Dog, an original game which was released with no fanfare (and little public acclaim) to unappreciative audiences in 1990 and 1991.
Scrapyard Dog details the adventures of the game's big-nosed protagonist, Louie, as he runs, jumps, hops and shoots his way through various worlds to save his dog, Scraps, who has been kidnapped by the evil Mr. Big.
It's not an entirely original idea for a game, but Scrapyard Dog is executed extremely well the system. It's fun, challenging and yet not impossible to complete; this makes Scrapyard Dog one of the best titles for the system. The Lynx version, which features surprisingly deep and creative gameplay, is especially recommended. It's a game worth owning even if you're not a fan of this particular gaming genre.
It's apparent that the Lynx version of Scrapyard Dog was coded after the 7800 version. With its expanded worlds, enemies, cheats and easter eggs, the Lynx version is more of a sequel than a true port of Scrapyard Dog for the 7800, but the core of the game is essentially similar in both games.
Scrapyard Dog begins in Louie's junkyard. Mr. Big's henchmen have invaded his home turf, and Louie has to evade / kill them in order to advance to the next level. Louie also has to avoid hazards such as birds (and their droppings), junkyard rats, and tar pits. Fortunately, Louie can kill enemies by throwing cans at them or by buying weapons with which they can be killed. Weapons are, for some reason, much easier to buy in the Lynx version of the game.
The Lynx version of Scrapyard Dog is a much larger game than on the 7800. Each of the game's six different worlds is composed of five levels of gaming challenge, and it exposes more of a gaming "plot" as Louie is forced to move further away from his Junkyard and traverse increasingly difficult terrain in order to track down his pet.
Each of the worlds have been coded with distinct thematic environments. The worlds, respectively represented as "Junkyard," "City," "Forest," "Desert," "Ice," and "Mountain" are all extraordinarily well-done and jam-packed with gaming details (polar bears and snowballs in "Ice"; mountain goats and boulders in "Mountain"). "City 2" has a vertically expanded playing field, and players should make attempts here to explore rooftops in order to find hidden bonuses and shops. I'm also particularly impressed with the "Desert" world, which has colourful cacti, abandoned stagecoaches, and even a ghost town!
Each of the worlds also has its own thematically distinct boss, such as the ghostly cowboy in the "Desert" world and the henchman-operated submarine that you'll find in the City's sewer system. They are, however, all quite easy to kill once you discern their specific firing/movement patterns.
It is difficult to complete Scrapyard Dog if you play it in a linear fashion: the game is quite large and it lacks any type of password / save system. Fortunately, most worlds are linked by secret warp doors hidden in a number of different levels. Louie can only access these doors if he first "shrinks" down to their size by finding the "shrink" bonus on one of the preceding screens. No detailed guide for Scrapyard Dog was ever published, so gamers will have to locate all of these items through trial and error.
Louie can be armed with any number of extra weapons to help him complete his task. He starts out with an unlimited supply of killer cans, but he'll require several of them to kill tougher enemies, and they won't work at all on some natural hazards (e.g. bees). Players will have the opportunity throughout the game to stock up on guns (stun, "ice", or pistol-type), bombs, tri-lasers, and even flamethrowers(!). One type of weapon must be exhausted before another can be accessed; cans can always be thrown by pressing "option 1".
You can also purchase (with found money) shields, body armour, and even lives at a few select shops, but you'll pay a premium to buy these life-saving devices. Limited invincibility power-ups are hidden throughout Scrapyard Dog and, unlike other items, you can't buy these in the game's shops.
Controls in Scrapyard Dog are exactly what they should be. The Lynx's gaming pad is particularly suited for platformers, and I've never lost a life (after becoming accustomed to the controls) to sloppy game responses. This is extremely important, as success often depends on maneuvering past tight spots, and finesse (rather than speed) is often required.
Scrapyard Dog's graphics in the Lynx version are almost as impressive as the 7800 version. Characters are nicely detailed and the game uses an extensive colour palate that is very pleasing to the eye. Scrapyard Dog has a straightforward 2D graphical environment, and its look is reminiscent of an animated comic strip.
The Lynx version also has an altogether more surreal sense of graphical humour than does its 7800 relative, and you'll probably find yourself laughing out loud when confronted with the game's little absurdities. Louie is invited, for instance, too look into refrigerators to find bonuses (although there's no danger of suffocating in them), and he actually has to squat on a toilet at one point in order to find a secret warp bonus.
Scrapyard Dog doesn't really take advantage of the Lynx's advanced musical capabilities. The omnipresent background tune is repetitive (but ingratiatingly good; I often find myself humming the game's theme at inappropriate times), and there's a disappointing lack of digitized speech samples. Shouldn't we be at least treated to digitized barks (instead of the computerized whine that we do get) when Mr. Big drives away with Louie's dog at the beginning of the game?
Any sin here, however, is one of omission; Scrapyard Dog's sound effects are otherwise nicely varied and generally done quite well.
Scrapyard Dog is a title that's often overlooked in the library of Lynx games due to the fact that it is now relatively rare and expensive and doesn't come with the cultural cachet of a well-advertised gaming franchise.
Scrapyard Dog does, however, manage to offer quite a bit to respective fans of both gaming systems. Scrapyard Dog is a graphics (and, to a lesser extent, sound) showcase that is limited only by its generic gaming structure. It's a game that reveals a surprising amount of depth with repeated gameplay, and is not the simple platformer that it appears to be at first glance. Junkyard Louie may not have the cultural currency of a Mario, Luigi, or a Sonic, but that doesn't make his adventures any less fun. Scrapyard Dog is recommend, without hesitation, for gamers looking for a good platformer on the Lynx.