Scram Kitty DX review for PS Vita, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4
Publisher: Dakko Dakko
Developer: Dakko Dakko
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

The very best casual games work largely because they’re so intuitive. Whatever you may think of the broader merits of the likes of Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, or Jetpack Joyride, there’s no denying that you can figure out what to do with them within moments of picking them up. There may be nuances and depths that take awhile to reveal themselves, but for the most part, they’re the definition of “pick up and play”.

Scram Kitty DX, by contrast, features none of the things that make those games work so well. The controls suck. The balance is completely out of whack. The goals aren’t at all obvious. Basically, the only thing it kind of has going for it is that it’s not Free to Play — and quite frankly, it’s terrible enough that I’d be willing to sink all kinds of cash into Candy Crush Saga if my only two choices were that and Scram Kitty DX.

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What makes it so bad, you ask? For starters, nothing about the game is intuitive. I mean, it’s obvious how you move side to side, since you’re on rails (which is why the original Wii U version of this game was called Scram Kitty and His Buddy on Rails). After that, it may take awhile, but eventually you’ll realize that not only do you press X to jump, you also press X just before landing if you want to bounce even higher. And once enemies start appearing, you’ll probably be able to piece together what button you press to fire at them.

Putting all that knowledge to use, however, is an entirely different story. This game requires some level of precision in moving, jumping and shooting, but it’s not well-made enough to actually allow you to be precise. Rather, think of it as a constant exercise in randomness; sometimes it’ll allow you to jump where you want or fire at the enemies in front of you, but only sometimes. More likely, one jump will send you a little way up, while another will send you rocketing off into space. The controls are so bad that I felt compelled to quit the game and look at its electronic manual, just to make sure I wasn’t missing something obvious. I wasn’t, but the fact I did that — which is something I’ve literally never done before — should speak volumes.

It should also speak volumes that I had to look up YouTube videos of the game just to figure out what to do in the second level. Now, I’m all for challenging games, and I love how some of those aforementioned casual gaming gold standards really make things difficult once you reach a certain point. However, I don’t think it’s crazy to suggest “a certain point” comes well beyond a game’s second level. By any normal standard, the second level should be where you’re still learning the game’s mechanics and finding out what’s expected of you — not dying time after time in the hopes that maybe this will be the time that you figure out what, exactly, will allow you to progress to the third level.

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It absolutely boggles my mind that Scram Kitty DX is as bad as it is. Developers Dakko Dakko have a track record of…well, not excellence, but at the very least they’ve shown in the past that they’re capable of creating games that are very solidly above-average. And it’s possible, I guess, that the combination of my previous experiences and the game’s somewhat cute aesthetic have me looking at this game in the entirely wrong way — that it’s not meant to be a casual game, but, rather, an ultra-hard platformer-on-rails that should only be attempted by the hardest of hardcore gamers.

I don’t think so, though — we’re not talking about Flame Over here. We’re talking about a game with wonky controls and an even wonkier sense of balance, and it’s probably better to just move on to something else and forget Scram Kitty DX exists.

Grade: D-