Format – Wii U
Version Tested – 1.0
Rhodri Broadbent has seen his small studio, Dakko Dakko, go from strength to strength with each release since 2010. The latest title is, unquestionably, their biggest. Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails is a major third-party digital exclusive for Wii U that throws players back to the days of coverdisks on an Amiga magazine.
The game was first announced around a year ago, and back then the prospects of the Wii U were still uncertain. Now the console is fighting against desperate measures and the pressure on this title to deliver is surprisingly high, considering the lack of exclusives the Wii U is receiving outside of Nintendo’s own home-grown camp.
Fortunately, it meets its challenges quite comfortably. It’s full of vintage Nintendo charm, it looks great, it plays well, and feels very polished. Scram Kitty is a total package.
But to be honest, there’s nothing about Scram Kitty that couldn’t be ported onto any other platform. The use of a Second Screen isn’t essential to gameplay, though it does provide a naturally fun commentary that can offer some useful hints and tips while playing. It also presents a map in-between levels so you can see how you’re progressing through the game and you can also play the game through the gamepad without the need for the TV.
You play an unnamed blue-haired character that bears genetic similarities to Joe from the Joe and Mac Cavemen series of games. Only you don’t go around smacking people over the head with a club and petting dinosaurs on the belly. In Scram Kitty, you’re sat in a magnetic Spinboard and have to travel around the outskirts of the screen while on-rails. Nameless. Faceless. Identity-stricken.
Sorry, that won’t stand here. For the purposes of this review, we’re going to call the character Joe – because Joe was cool and we like Joe. Everyone needs a name, and if the cat can get a name, then so should the human. Equality for all! I’m missing some clever, deep-seated philosophical musing by doing this, aren’t I?
So what is Joe’s objective if not to scratch his armpit hair and go sliding down the neck of every diplodocus in sight? To collect cute kitty cats with astronaut helmets attached to their heads. Obviously.
The learning curve increases quite brutally from the off. Scram Kitty starts simple, tasking you with driving around the outskirts of the screen until you reach the exit. You can tell it’s an exit because there’s a big cat floating next to it. The second level pans out in much the same way. Accelerate, steer, collect the cat, move on.
But things start to get more interesting as you move further ahead. Rather than just having one cat per level, now you’ve got two. One cat is collected by merely getting to the exit, thereby ‘completing’ the level, but the other has to be found by collecting all of the pennies scattered around the map. This will require the player to jump between rails and smaller platforms and perform a bit of dexterity and precision.
Then, before you know it, the game wants you to produce timed, advanced jumping techniques, such as a boost-jump which requires you to tap the jump button a second time, just as you’re about to touch-down on the rail. This springboards Joe and the Spinboard and sends them hurtling through the air, allowing them to reconnect with another set of rails. The most interesting thing about that is, the game does not outrightly teach you the technique. You have to figure it out for yourself.
And the game continues to throw these curveballs in your direction. Soon you’re also learning how to shoot and are fighting against aggressive mice in mini space-ships. Of course, they are the most adorable little things you ever did see and aren’t actually hindering your progress to begin with, so you’ll feel slight pangs of guilt for blowing them out of the sky. Pretty soon, however, that will all change as they go all-out kamikaze on you and send out their big bad-ass boss-mouse master to blast you to kingdom come.
Eventually, you’ll be wading through levels that require you to save four cats, and each save requires something different of the player, whether you have to beat the mini-boss, collect all the pennies or chase down the escaping cat before the timer runs out.
Scram Kitty is great, old-school fun and a wonderful fit on Wii U. The retro, synthesised music fits well, though eventually becomes tedious to hear on repeat. However, the gameplay is always tight and challenging, and more than enough of a distraction from the background noise.
We did notice some input lag when both TV and GamePad screen were active. The action on the TV was noticeably faster than that of the Gamepad, something we’ve never noticed on a Wii U game before, which caught us a bit off-guard. It was never a major issue, though when collecting a cat on a timer, this did cause us a few headaches. Other than that, the game is smooth and technically adequate. We found no overriding issues and enjoyed our time with it. A worthy addition to any Wii U owner’s library.
However, once the campaign is over, we didn’t feel the additionally offered Challenge Mode provided enough interest for us to want to go back. Granted, the Miiverse challenge score saves make the experience slightly more interesting, however with a lack of a real competitive multiplayer or engaging alternative mode, Scram Kitty is probably good for one, solid playthrough.
Areas for Improvement
- Input lag between action on TV and Gamepad.
- Music loop is slightly too short and does quickly become tedious
- The Miiverse element needs to be expanded and further developed
Despite the game being good for a one-off, that one, solid playthrough, features many hours of heart-pounding, retry-after-retry action, that is always varied and fulfilling.
We love you, Joe.
Technical Competency – 8.5/10
Graphic Quality – 8/10
Sound Quality– 7/10
Network Stability – N/A
Overall – 8/10