After wooing us with the wonderfully named Floating Cloud God Saves the Pilgrims and The 2D Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character the mad cap humour of Dakko Dakko studios returns with the Wii U exclusive and equally epically named Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails.
The plot is mad and sends us back to the 16-bit days of lunatic ideas. Basically, your cat sends you a message from the international space station saying super intelligent mice have taken over and you need to get up there and rescue all the cats and take it back from them. What this amounts to is jumping on your spinner and blasting, leaping and spinning your way around some top down puzzle/platform levels.
The puzzle elements are based around shooting switches, finding different weapons to destroy obstacles and simply working out how to make jumps to different rails. It’s nothing massively complex but when combined with the past paced gameplay and onslaught of enemies it’s more than enough to deal with.
The game draws a lot of influence from Rotating Octopus but there are a ton of new ideas going on here. Working out the movement is key to success and your character controls in a fairly unique way. Your spinner is magnetic and attaches to any rail. You can move along the rails under your own steam but the only way you can reach another rail is to jump to it. What this means is that you need to use the rails carefully to get the right angles to jump and fire.
You will be attacked by various types of mice on your adventure and making sure you can actually hit them with your variety of weapons forms part of the crux of the game. Your character only fires directly in front of themselves so if you are on a side rail and they are coming at you from below you need to jump to a rail facing towards them in order to hit the pesky vermin. It starts out tricky but you soon get the hang of how it all works and it adds to the puzzle elements of certain levels.
The goal of each level is to rescue four cats and reach the exit door. You can just find the exit if you want but you’ll need cats to unlock levels as you go so replaying earlier stages is vital to progression. The four cats each have their own characteristics to be found. The lazy cat just sits by the exit and the lucky cat requires all the lucky pennies to be found in a level before appearing. The black cat requires a super tough mouse to be destroyed before it will come out and finally the scaredy cat, when picked up, will run off to somewhere else on the station and requires chasing around and capturing in a strict time limit.
Scram Kitty is a tough game and you’ll need both patience and perseverance to get through. You have an energy bar but once it’s gone you’ll have to start the level again from scratch. This includes finding cats, coins and weapons again or taking down the big bad mouse commanders. The levels are fairly compact but the amount of skill required from the player means dying near the end of a stage can be exasperating.
There is one problem with Scram Kitty which can be a pain. Every now and then the proverbial Scram will appear on screen to give advice. When this happens he pretty much takes up the entire screen and this led to a number of deaths and missed jumps as we simply couldn’t see what was going on. You can move the advice to the game pad but then you miss what he is telling you as by the time you hear the voice and look down he’s already said what he was going to. It’s a minor issues but one that does become annoying at times.
Overall, Scram Kitty is one of the better Wii U exclusive games. There’s a lot of invention and originality on show in terms of the games mechanics and we certainly haven’t played anything like this for years. It’s a pretty essential purchase for anyone who wants an old school challenge mixed with some clever design. Dakko Dakko seems to go from strength to strength and they are producing games that stand out in a very crowded market. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next.