REVIEW / Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails (Wii U)

 

Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails is a shoot ’em up/platformer/pure insanity videogame available for the Wii U through the Nintendo eShop. Gamers take on the role of a young hero named Buddy who rides a ship into space to rescue his cat, Scram Kitty, along with all of the Earth’s cats (might as well while you are there, right?). Players must shoot dastardly mice (the main enemy of felines everywhere) in deadly contraptions while also riding and jumping along rails, which makes for quite a frantic adventure. Different weapons appear in the various stages to help you clear obstacles and obliterate enemies, though you don’t get to keep upgraded firepower from level to level. Also, Scram Kitty is OUTRAGEOUSLY DIFFICULT.

 

Scram Kitty, seen here in a jovial mood before his owner dies 1,700 times on this one level

 

Scram Kitty starts off innocently enough: the first few levels have you learning basics like jumping, getting used to the fact that your ship can only shoot in the direction it is facing (so attaching to rails at certain angles is key to successfully destroying the space rat population), and how to turn your ship into a fireball of doom with a double tap of the jump button (this also helps you bounce to other rails while using gravity to land correctly, which is VERY difficult to get down, but rewarding when one learns how to do it consistently). After a few levels, though (and I mean FEW), Scram Kitty decides you are a big boy now and throws crazy platforming and hordes of enemies at you immediately. Seasoned vets might get a kick out of some old school, Nintendo Entertainment System-era difficulty, but younger gamers might get put off by how quickly Scram Kitty turns into mayhem a few stages in.

 

An example of bouncing between rails (the yellow rail on top causes pain, so timing and the amount of force one puts on the jump button is important)

 

The main objective in each stage is to find the exit and grab the Lazy-type cat situated there. However, there are three other types of cats you can grab that will appear at the exit once nabbed: the Black Cat, who appears once you find the level’s Mouse Commander and explode him into smithereens (these mice always feel like bullet sponges with the main weapon, which is a minor dock against the game), the Lucky Cat, who appears once you collect 100 pellets scattered around the stage, and the Scaredy Cat, who appears and then whisks around different points in the level before you can grab him (oh, and he’ll disappear and return to his starting point if you take too long chasing him). Buddy’s ship can only take a few hits before exploding (though you can grab health powerups in the various stages), and you have to start over if you die. Nabbing all four cats and reaching the exit in one go is a tough task for even the most hardened gamer, and feels almost borderline impossible.

 

Pictured above: fairness

 

Thankfully, players can opt to get as many cats as they can, reach a stage’s exit, and then only have to go back to obtain the ones they missed. This is a godsend that will keep your GamePad safe from being thrown against the wall in anger every time you die trying to nab all the cats at once, and highly recommended to be the default way you play if you want to retain your sanity. Gameplay is also experienced through the GamePad by default, while your television shows a broadcast view of the action with Scram Kitty appearing every so often to offer tips or comment on how sad it is your ship is on its last bar of health. Since your eyes are going to be focused squarely on the Pad, you probably won’t see much of Scram Kitty, unless you have friends watching and they offer to point out what he is saying. Gamers can also switch the broadcast view to the GamePad with the push of a button at any time, and can zoom out the camera to get a better view of a level’s layout.

 

Obtaining more advanced weaponry makes eradicating the mice horde much easier

 

Scram Kitty has a great electro-synth soundtrack to listen to as you progress through each level, and simplistic laser sounds and mice death cries that harken back to a simpler time in gaming. Visually, the game is colorfully varied, with pixel graphics mixed into a 3D world; enemies will pop out of the background, launch missiles, and spin giant robots around wildly to make you explode. There is also a Challenge Mode where you rescue as many cats as you can within a time limit, and post your scores to Miiverse to compare to the rest of the world. Unlocking levels requires a certain amount of cats rescued, so you may have to bite the bullet and play that area you died a million times on to grab more cats if you want to see everything Scram Kitty has to offer.

 

Doesn't this look just DELIGHTFUL?!

 

Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails is not a title for everyone, and it has a few issues holding it back from greatness. There are times when the amount of enemies thrown at you will seem unfair, and the Mouse Commanders will eat up a ton of bullets before dying. The bounce ability you can use with your ship isn’t fully explained either, and one has to learn through intuition that the more health you have, the greater air time you have while bouncing (there are fiendish sections that require pinpoint accuracy regarding this little tidbit of info). Being able to shoot in only one direction and the inability to carry over upgraded weapons into other levels might turn off some, as well. But if you stick with it, leave some cats to get for later, and learn the jumping mechanic inside and out, Scram Kitty can be a great, fun time. When you nail a particularly difficult section or go back to a level that was giving you trouble and beat it within a few minutes, you feel like you are on top of the world and can do just about anything. Know that Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails is one of the hardest titles on the market today, but also that it is rewarding and provides a challenge that is indeed surmountable (though just barely).

 

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