Cat Scratch Fever –
With a high challenge, lack of tutorial and constant requirement for perfect playthroughs, Scram Kitty and His Buddy on Rails is not for everybody. You know you are in for something special when it takes hours of trial-and-error just to complete the first few opening “learning” stages of this deceptively devious original platformer.
Restricted to lateral movement on the perimeter of each platform, or rails as they are called here, Scram Kitty puts players in control of this hover car vehicle thing. The goal is to reach the end of each stage while rescuing a certain number of stray cats along the way. Some cats only appear after all the collectables have been collected, some only appear after certain tasks are completed like killing all enemies or gaining access to certain areas, and some might even run away resulting in a chase scene. The quest for finding these cats always features a high challenge as enemies are often numerous, take way too many hits to defeat, power ups are limited, and platforming is rarely easy.
From a technical stand point, Scram Kitty looks nice in high def with very colorful characters and level design but lacks any and all indication on where to go or how to do anything. While some might appreciate this lack of direction especially since many modern games tend to hold the player’s hand a little too closely, it results in more frustration than entertainment here in this $10 Wii U eShop download.
With the lack of any hint or tutorial system whatsoever, the player must waste time tinkering around with the controls and figuring out what the game wants the player to do. For example, it wasn’t until a couple stages in that I realized there is a double tap jump option to reach higher heights. Further, it wasn’t until a couple stages after that I accidentally figured out that certain blocks can be broken by performing this double jump. Even the opening menu system doesn’t explain or hint at anything leaving the player to blindly figure out everything through trial and error or by stumbling upon things by accident. In one of the beginning stages, I randomly found that shooting at a certain wall for an abnormally long amount of time will cause it to bust open to reveal a secret section and a hidden cat and an enemy that took about a dozen tries to take down. Even solely playing off the Gamepad screen has its disadvantage as the camera is zoomed in too much.
Making matters worse, level progression is also challenging and can only be activated once a certain number of kitties have been rescued. The beginning stages only have one kitten to find but later stages will have several to capture and finding each one often requires a perfect playthrough and/or multiple repeat playthroughs. Shooting is also limited to a perpendicular path which makes combat constantly difficult and platforming features a strange sense of gravity that seems to act randomly with Mario Galaxy-like effects. This is just a bizarre game overall from a gameplay and presentation stand point.
Fans of difficult arcade and NES games might get some joy from Scram Kitty’s kick-you-when-you-are-down difficulty and lack of direction while others will only find rage quitting frustration. There is nothing like playing a level for 20-30 minutes only to get cheaply blown up at the end of a stage by an enemy that takes too many hits to kill. I appreciate and respect Dakko Dakko’s commitment to Nintendo’s failing console, but this downloadable title will make gamers scream instead of purr.
Not As Good As: Robotron
Better Than: throwing a Wii Remote through your TV screen
Also Try: Dark Souls
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com