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Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails review

Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £9
inc VAT

Fiendishly difficult but always fun and very rewarding, this is easily one of the best games on the Wii U eShop


System Requirements: Nintendo Wii U, 100MB of storage

Scram Kitty’s titular Buddy on Rails must really love cats. Otherwise, he’d be the first one laying on a spread of cheese and crackers for his new mouse overlords because Cardiff studio Dakko Dakko’s debut eShop game for Wii U is quite possibly one of the hardest games you’ll ever play.

It’s a strange mix of a top-down shooter and 2D platformer. You can grind your spherical mech suit along almost any rail in any direction you like, and you can even jump between different rail sections. But Scram Kitty has one rigid rule you must abide by: you can only ever shoot perpendicular to your particular rail.

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This makes blasting down enemies an exercise in fine motor control, as manoeuvring your suit to the right angle while staying out of the line of fire can take some time to get your head round. Fortunately, the game’s four opening tutorial levels ease you in gently, letting you experiment freely with the game’s various mechanics at your own pace.

These include a fire jump (a super powered jump attack that bounces much higher than your normal little hop) and manipulating your centrifugal force to whirl round certain rail platforms much faster than simply grinding round them. The game introduces these ideas without ever breathing a word of instruction onscreen, too, making it very much a disciple of the Super Mario Bros. school of “show, don’t tell” game design.

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Admittedly, we felt that four levels wasn’t quite long enough to really master the complexity of Scram Kitty’s controls, as the fifth stage ramps up the difficulty level quite significantly. Still, by letting players work things out for themselves, it brings a refreshing change of pace to the game. Every move feels incredibly natural and finally pulling off a difficult manoeuvre after multiple failed attempts feels like a personal triumph. 

Scram Kitty isn’t about performing tricks and racking up points, though. Instead, the key to progression lies in saving four different types of cat trapped in each stage. Luckily, one is always waiting for you at the end of each level – which itself can be quite a challenge – but you’ll need to coax out the other three by completing certain tasks, and it’s in saving these additional kitties that your knowledge and understanding of the game is really put to the test.

The most straightforward cat is obtained by defeating a super-powered mouse commander mini boss. This is by far the second easiest cat to save, but you’ll still have to make it to the end of the level in one piece before you can claim your prize. If you lose all your health before you get there, it’s back to square one.

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The Japanese Lucky Cat, on the other hand, only appears when you collect all 100 coins scattered throughout each course. This, too, seems like an obtainable goal at the start of the game, but later stages demand some pretty complicated tricks to succeed, such as flinging yourself round huge bends and corners or using precisely powered fire jumps to avoid getting electrocuted by live sections of track.

The hardest and most difficult cat of all will drive you to distraction, as it’s essentially a bouncing, time-attack kitten that can only be caught by chasing it down across each level at breakneck speeds, all without a single error on your part. We’d recommend leaving this particular cat for repeated run-throughs, as you’re going to need to know each course inside out to even stand a chance of catching it.

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Some players may never attempt these hefty challenges, as you can see a large portion of the game simply by completing each level. But as soon as you start testing your skills, the game’s inner platformer really comes alive. It’s rare to find a game in this genre that feels as finely-tuned as a 2D Mario game, but Scram Kitty’s sure-footed design does this effortlessly – and that’s no mean feat for such a small indie studio. Levels are constantly presenting players with new hurdles to tackle, whether it’s navigating large, open arenas or fiendish mazes, and its relentless stream of new ideas means that every level feels fresh and different from the last.

Even better is the fact that the entire game is designed to be played solely on the Wii U’s GamePad, allowing players to concentrate more fully on the task at hand. The TV, on the other hand, is designed for spectators, presenting a larger overview of each stage alongside Scram Kitty himself who cheers you on from the side lines with hints and tips like a kind of spectral TV game host.

While it may seem a shame to tear the focus away from the big screen, catering for other viewers not only makes the game more fun to play as a group, but Scram Kitty’s regular appearances also brings a welcome sense of humour and relief to proceedings. Without this kind of cathartic reality check, we’re sure Scram Kitty would be far more frustrating to play. 

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It’s these kinds of design choices that separate Scram Kitty from the rest of the pack. It remains loveable even in its toughest moments, and its satisfying mix of arcade bullet hell shooting and rock hard platforming always keep you coming back for more. At just £9, Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails is easily the best game currently available on the Wii U eShop, and a must-buy for any Wii U owner.


System requirementsNintendo Wii U, 100MB storage
Price including VAT£9
SupplierNintendo Wii U eShop

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