Nintendo eShop developer discussion: Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails
Super-intelligent rodents with world domination on their mousy minds have catnapped your beloved Scram Kitty! Take on the role of Buddy, leap onto your spinboard and prepare for action-packed blasting in Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails, coming to Nintendo eShop on Wii U on May 15th.
We talked to Rhodri Broadbent and Dan Croucher from developer Dakko Dakko to find out about their influences, objectives, and more.
Nintendo of Europe: First of all, thanks for joining us today. For our readers who might be coming to this completely fresh, could you explain the game?
Dakko Dakko: Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails is an action, platforming, shooter game in which you have to ride on a special magnetic “spinboard” – like a skateboard that sticks to rails – in an epic quest to save all of the cats that have been imprisoned by intelligent space mice.
NoE: That’s a pretty unique story, it’s fair to say!
DD: Definitely, it’s not going to take itself too seriously!
NoE: That’s something of a trademark of yours, as well as quirky visual design. What were some of your visual influences with Scram Kitty?
DD: There’s a retro influence of course, but we’re not directly trying to create a retro game look, so there’s some perspective work and 3D in there too. It’s got the spirit of 16-bit, but it’s more of an homage, what with the sprite art and more modern 3D stuff as well. We wanted the spirit of those sorts of games but made using modern technology; consoles can do more now and we wanted to take advantage of that, so we actually used some stark lighting and interesting visual techniques to make it look arcadey.
NoE: Can you sum up the basic gameplay ideas and objectives for us?
DD: Each stage has four cats imprisoned in it, and each cat has to be rescued in a different way. So there’s what we call Lazy cats – they hang around in the exit to the stage, so all you need to do is get to the exit to save them. But then there are three other more advanced ways to play each level – Scaredy cats leap from place to place for a short time, so it’s a speed-run approach; Black cats only emerge when you kill the super-powerful Mouse Commander in each stage; and the Lucky cat only comes out when you collect all 100 golden pennies in the stage. So there are elements of games like Super Mario 64 in there, in that you can play the same stage in different ways depending what your objective is, but because all the objectives are ‘live’ all the time you can choose what you’re doing during the level. Also you can try and do all objectives in one go, which is a risk if you die, or just pick and choose.
NoE: It sounds like the difficulty is flexible and adapts to the player’s skill – is it something anyone can play?
DD: It definitely is. We tried to make it so the Lazy cat, where you just need to get to the exit, is accessible to most players. But the Scaredy cat, for example, is designed for people who want to work out special routes to find shortcuts, or who think, “OK, instead of killing that enemy, I have to navigate its very-difficult attacks quickly, and just get out of there fast,” so that’s a more advanced level for people who really like to speedrun things. Or there’s times that it’s just really dangerous to deviate from the main route and collect all the pennies, so you have to play a whole stage much more carefully, and, of course, sometimes you may be taking different routes to avoid, or find, a tougher enemy. So we made it in such a way that, hopefully, everyone will get different things out of it and then players, as they go through, will become more skilled and will go back to the earlier stages and save the more advanced cats.
NoE: What’s your favourite thing about the game?
DD: Our favourite thing about it is that everything you do is relative to the rails that you’re riding. So the shots will always be angled based upon the rail that you’re on, meaning you have to position yourself in the room in a vantage point that will give you the most efficient way of taking out enemies. It takes a bit of a mind shift to get into it, but when you do, every time you get into a new room, you think "how can I avoid that attack?" Obviously with a traditional shooter you would just fly around wherever you like to position yourself, but here you have set-out routes around stages, so you have to master the jump and really position yourself well to survive.
Could you explain a bit more about that jump feature you just mentioned?
DD: When the player launches off a rail, they always fly out from the rail, but after a short time they’ll get pulled back toward the position from where they left. So because we’re looking at the game from top-down, you can thrust yourself forwards, but if you don’t find anywhere else to land then you’ll get pulled back to where you came from.
Then we have a special move called the Fire Jump – if you press jump a second time when in the air and hold it when landing, you can turn yourself into a flaming ball that spins around, pulling yourself around corners, smashing into enemies, and that sort of thing. It’s like a double-jump, and is both a defensive and offensive weapon, all in one, and once you’ve mastered the feel of it, then you can find some really interesting ways around stages that you wouldn’t have noticed straight away.
NoE: So there’s something for novice players and experts as well – you must be excited to see the kind of thing that players will do when they get their hands on the game.
DD: Its really interesting watching people going through and learning how to do that stuff. Using the Fire Jump well on some stages is like getting in a flow, and we’ve added this mode called Challenge where the player has to play through all the stages in as short a time as possible, getting extra time for collecting cats and pennies – that mode is where the pro players will end up, we think, hopefully playing in ways that we never expected.
NoE: Scram Kitty is exclusive for Wii U, of course – did you have any particular features of the console or Wii U GamePad in mind when you started development?
DD: We targeted the two-screen element because we wanted to have the second screen that shows off the spectator mode, so people in the room get an extra insight as to what’s going on in the game. It’s a slightly more quirky presentation of the game, as opposed to being purely played on the GamePad. Also, we wanted to use the buttons and stick that feel really satisfying. So it’s played on the GamePad screen primarily, because I like that sort of intimacy that the player gets from that, and also because it lends itself well to that arcadey feel we’re shooting for.
NoE: Having a personal screen and a main screen – what sorts of ideas did that give you?
DD: I would say the idea that someone else watching it will get a different viewpoint and will see things before the player sees them, and will be encouraged to talk to the player. It’s a social single-player game, really: that’s sort of the main idea of the game with the two-screen thing. Other than that, the game itself is fairly well contained within the GamePad: it’s all about the nice feel of tactile controls and the shooting, really.
NoE: So it's something you can play off-TV if you want to.
DD: Absolutely, yeah. It’s one of the challenges we had, but it’s designed so you can play it fully off-TV, and then the TV spectator mode is secondary to the gameplay. And it’s hard to look at two screens when you’re playing an intense action game like Scram Kitty so, we acknowledge that and make the second screen for spectators.
NoE: Is there anything else you’re doing with Wii U that you’d like to tell our readers about?
DD: Just the combination of the two screens, with the audio flipping between the two, so you’ve got a cat that will meow at you from the television for instance. And of course the fact that the system lets us throw around hundreds of enemies at once, so we can really use the Wii U console’s power to make an old-style arcade game that’s just absolutely rammed with action and missiles flying round the screen, which is basically what we wanted to make.
NoE: Sum it up for everyone reading – why should they be excited for Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails?
DD: I think because it takes some of the best features of platform games and shooting games, and merges them together in a way we don’t think has been done before. It really harks back to those glory days of the Super Nintendo and brings them up-to-date with a modern console.
NoE: Thanks very much for your time!
Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails will be available from Nintendo eShop on May 15th, only on Wii U.