#The ability to reduce a man to a crumpled, frustrated mess is a rare skill that few game developers possess, but Dakko Dakko has it sussed. Scram Kitty DX, which first launched on WiiU as Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails, has ground its way on to Playstation platforms, leaving countless broken gamers in its wake. Pack your tissues, patience and a tranquiliser because you’ll probably need them if you are going to ride with this cat.
You play as Buddy, the Scram Kitty himself, and guide him through a treacherous space laboratory as he attempts to rescue his feline pals. Buddy moves by piloting a rail-mounted vehicle called a spinboard, which allows him to glide from one rail to another, and propel himself into the air. Touch Buddy’s spinboard against another magnetic rail and it will securely clip against it. With scores of enemies prowling through each level it’s a skill you will need to hone quickly.
Combat isn’t Scram Kitty DX’s main mechanic, but it is far from an afterthought – in fact, Buddy’s weapons are a fleshed-out feature that you will use to overcome enemies and solve the lab’s puzzles.
You can’t control the spinboard’s weapons independently though, and are only able to fire in straight lines, in the direction you are facing. This small caveat sets up much of the game’s combat and puzzles, and you will be tasked with outmaneuvering enemies and correctly positioning yourself to flick switches. As well as your weapons you can also do a Samus Aran style double jump which can destroy enemies and certain walls. Using this jump correctly sends Buddy swinging through the air, in a Super Mario Galaxy style. Mastering the ability to swiftly and precisely swing from one rail to the other, with guns blazing, will give you the upper hand in rescuing your pals.
Each stage, with the exception of the tutorial levels, features four kidnapped kittens for you to liberate. Making it to the exit grants you a freebie, but rescuing the other three isn’t so easy. Killing the Mouse Commander, a cunning and tricky boss, rescues one cat, whilst picking up 100 collectibles unlocks another. The third, and most difficult cat, sends you on a race against the clock to find him as he moves from one place to the next. When you have all three in the bag , a swift beeline for the exit takes you back to the level selection screen. On paper this all sounds simple but, in practice, you will thank your lucky stars if you can save half of Buddy’s pals.
Scram Kitty DX gently guides you through its quirks over four tutorial stages, after that the gloves are off and the game proper can begin. It doesn’t pull its punches and expects you to bring your A-game. Each level is a handcrafted slice of genius that flows gorgeously. Every element, from its enemies, rails , puzzles and platforms, works together in symbiosis to create a ferociously difficult challenge. Levels are, in essence, large puzzles which tie together the fundamentals of multiple different genres, and while Scram Kitty DX owes a nod of gratitude to a bunch of classic games, it blends them in a way that is distinctly its own.
Kitty’s initial difficulty will almost certainly prove too much for some, but a wealth of rewards await gamers who can persevere. Pushing through the challenge pays off not just with spinboard upgrades, but some of the tightest, cleverest level design I have seen in a long time. Even though a merciless pummeling greeted me on every Tron-stlye level it was never unfair, and I was always ready to dive back in for another kicking.
At its most scathing, Scram Kitty DX can make you feel like a scratching post but don’t be deterred, catnip-like euphoria is a whisker’s length away if you can hang in there.