By Guy Rainey / June 18th, 2014
|Title||Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails|
|Release Date||May 15, 2014|
Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails is a 360° platformer for the Wii U. It really is a unique game, but uniqueness doesn’t always equal greatness. Should Scram Kitty purr or yowl?
Every cat in the world has been kidnapped by mice who have somehow gotten ahold of a space station and mini-space ships. Yikes! You are not the titular Scram Kitty; you are the buddy on rails mentioned in the title, named Buddy, appropriately enough. Scram Kitty has also been kidnapped, but he can communicate with you. You’ll need to rescue all those cats with your abilities.
As you start to play, you’ll quickly find that there’s nothing else quite like Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails. You traverse magnetic rails that can run in any direction. The controls take a little getting used to. In order to give complete freedom of movement when jumping, you must move the control stick in the direction you want to go. This is confusing because, as you go around bumps in the road, you’ll have to tilt your control stick all the way around the curve, rather than being able to continue holding it in the direction you want to go. I had trouble remembering that for a while, but, by the time I finished, I wasn’t having a problem. Like I said, it takes some getting used to, but it works pretty well.
Your main jump won’t be able to get you everywhere, so you’ll need the booster to get farther along. You can have up to six boosters at once. The more boosters you have, the farther you can go. You’ll lose a booster each time you’re hit. Boosters are scattered throughout the level, and you can also earn them by defeating five enemies in a row. While using the boosters, you can destroy enemies. However, there’s a catch. The booster won’t ignite until you hit the ground. And, if an enemy gets in the way, your booster won’t ignite. It is even possible to die while trying to get away with the boosters.
The most annoying thing about the game’s controls is the shooting. You can only shoot straight ahead in the direction you are facing with the standard weapon, and you may not be able to get a good vantage point on any particular enemy you’re worried about. If there were some way to change the aim of the shots (like with the second stick, that isn’t used at all), there would be far fewer frustrating deaths.
There are other weapons in the game, like missiles, a flame thrower and a powerful laser blast, but you must collect them in a level to use them. There’s only ever one weapon in the level, and you won’t keep it once you finish it, or even if you have to restart the level. The weapons do offer unique challenge opportunities, as the levels they are in are designed around their use.
In most levels, there will be four cats you can rescue. One, the Lazy Cat, will be at the end of the level, and you’ll just need get there to rescue him. Another, the Lucky Cat, won’t appear until you collect all the coins scattered throughout the level. The Black Cat won’t appear until you defeat a hidden mini-boss in the level. The last one, the Scaredy Cat, is visible on the map, but you’ll need to chase him down a few times before he’ll allow himself to be rescued. To get access to more levels (and, eventually, the final boss), you’ll need to collect a certain number of cats. In fact, you won’t be able to get out of the tutorial levels until you’ve collected all the cats in them.
The levels are really interesting. Even though you are on rails that go in every direction, you do have to worry about gravity. If you spend too much time out in empty space, you fall into the abyss below. Of course, if you have enough health, you just lose a piece, and they put you back into a relatively safe position (there could still be enemies around, though). Still, the variety of design that is allowed from a 360° play space is on full display. The levels can curve in any number of ways, and there’s always a surprise around the corner. There are five basic level themes, but they don’t really have any level consistency, outside the background. So, basically, there’s a lot of good variety in the level design here.
Gathering all the cats in each level is a real challenge. I died a lot in my quest to save the cats. I spent over 10 hours playing, and I still have yet to collect them all. That doesn’t stop me from trying, though. I spent a lot of time collecting all those coins, beating all those bosses and getting to the end. I didn’t save as many Scaredy Cats. Often, they’ll land you right into enemy territory, so you’ll want to clear out the level before you get them. Since you don’t need every cat to complete the game, I skipped quite a few of them. I’ll get to them eventually, but, by the time I’ve cleared everything out of the level (which you will need to do to get in most cases), my health was so low, that I’d rather finish the level with three than try to get that Scaredy Cat.
Being on the Wii U, the game uses two screens. During the game, one screen will display your play area, and the other will display helpful hints. That’s how Scram Kitty is communicating with you. He’ll help you find that cat that runs around, or the coins you still need to make that other cat appear. Occasionally, he’ll offer some tidbit of information. Which screen is which is up to you. The game is certainly playable on the GamePad exclusively. What’s on the other screen is just helpful information, but not essential. By the end, I had no need for the tips Scram Kitty was giving me, so I played only on the GamePad.
The presentation is pretty good. The 2D sprites are vibrant and pleasantly detailed, and the 3D background makes you feel very high up. The graphics portray a sort of retro feel, but it’s not retro because of the detail, and the 3D backgrounds. It goes beyond retro without hiding it. The music fits the graphics very well. The game uses electronic themes. Not chiptune, but electronic. It feels like an evolution of chiptune, which fits the theme very well.
Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails is a new type of game. And I’d say go for it. It isn’t perfect, but I got enough enjoyment from those 10 hours that I’d say it’s definitely worth the $10 entry fee. If you need something to play on your Wii U, this is a really good candidate.
Review copy provided by publisher
Dakko DakkoScram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails