Teams, You Have One Hour Of Tinkering Time

Originally Published: 19 November 2008

Ah, Scrapheap Challenge. That great bastion of Sunday night viewing. I always wanted to go on Scrapheap but could never find anyone who could weld. And the fact that I have little or no idea of, well, how mechanical stuff works was a bit of a handicap, but I do feel I could pull off the wearing of a coloured overall. I just like that fact that the teams have to build a hovercraft or a submarine out of (mainly) junk and a few well hidden but useful bits and bobs. I want to be able to do that…

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts has arrived and re-ignited my love of tinkering. It’s, dare I say, reignited my Britishness – my need to invent things in the shed. Everyone knows, as James May often points out on his programs celebrating British ingenuity, that all great ideas have been brought to life in sheds. From the Wallace and Gromit (yet more famous, if slightly plasticine-y British tinkerers) style end notes of the Rare logo sting I knew I was in for a good old gaming experience and some proper tinkering.

As the game began I found myself using the stock vehicles to complete my tasks, but as time went on I noticed that the vehicles just weren’t giving me the best performance. I just wasn’t getting the results I wanted – sure, I’d win a jiggy but that Trophy Thomas cup was just beyond my grasp. This just wasn’t good enough, but I wasn’t sure that I was up to the challenge of building a full-blown vehicle of my own creation. I didn’t feel I understood enough about the vehicle mechanics to be able to start from scratch so I did what every self-respecting person does. Oh yes, I took a pre-made vehicle and stuck one thing on it.

humbav22

Anyone who’s played the game will know that this is, basically, the Humba Heavy 1 with a couple of little tweaks – nothing too elaborate but it gets the job done. The challenge was this – I needed to propel a Jinjo a set distance in order to win a bingo token. I tried various approaches before settling on the “hit it with something heavy” plan. This plan failed for two main reasons:-

1) The Humba Heavy has rubbish grip
2) It’s slower than the winner of the slowest thing ever competition.

Being the tinkering kinda guy I am, I set about fixing this problem. I had come across some high grip wheels in the course of my exploration so a quick wheel change later and I had a more grippy Humba Heavy. The second problem was solved by remembering a little loading screen tip – you can improve a vehicle easily by adding more of the same parts. At the time of building, I was only in possession of small engines. Small engines equal low power. However, strap a couple of small engines into your vehicle and the speed improves greatly. And lo, the Humba Heavy v2.0 was born.

I returned to my challenge. I drove at the Jinjo in the v2.0. The jinjo flew across the map but still didn’t go quite far enough to net me my coverted bingo token. Back to the drawing board – taking the recently modified v2.0 as my blueprint, I set to tinkering again. I looked through my available parts and discovered the hitherto overlooked Boot-In-A-Box. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Press a button and a boot comes out of the box, and whacks whatever it comes into contact with. I quickly bolted that to the underside of the v2.0 and lo, we had a winner. Humba Heavy v2.1 brings home the tokens.

Or it did, until I spotted a massive design flaw in a later challenge. I had positioned the boot on the underside of my vehicle which meant it grounded on lumps and bumps. A schoolboy error on my part but easily remedied – simply move the Boot-In-A-Box to the front of your vehicle and you have the, as yet, unbeaten v2.2.

That’s what I love. This game is so simple, it’s brilliant. There’s a challenge in the Logbox 720 levels where you have to collect two people and return them to a checkpoint. If you go for each person individually you’ll more than likely miss out on the top prize. Why not add another passenger seat and get them both on one trip? If you don’t have another passenger seat, then get out there and find one in a Mumbo Crate. It’s totally Scrapheap Challenge but with a bird and a bear instead of Llewellyn and Rogers.

My first custom-made vehicle was built for a challenge where I had to protect Clanker’s Eyeballs from some malicious robots. Yes, the challenges are ridiculous but that’s what’s great about the game. You never really know what you’re going to be asked to do – score a load of goals in an alloted time by pushing giant footballs, or knock over a load of dominos in one push – but each task you’re given allows you to pretty much go wild. For my eyeball protection duty all the stock vehicles were a massive letdown. I lost those eyes more times than I care to remember. In the end, I came up with something which looked a little like this:

fister

My dubiously named “Fister” did the job, armed with two punching fists and a couple of egg launchers, but it didn’t do it well enough to get me the TT Trophy, so it’s heading back to the drawing board once I find a few more interesting parts.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to go and fathom a way to knock Grunty out of her weird, bouncing contraption and the Fister just won’t cut it.

Wish me luck!