The eccentric perfectionism of Dakko Dakko

Screw games as art, this is games as craft.

You can tell pretty much everything you need to know about a game from its jump mechanics, whether it's contemporary Grand Theft Auto's slapstick tumble, the perfect bound in a Mario game or the cotton-soft float of Sackboy. The jump in Scram Kitty, a former Wii U exclusive that's now on its way to PS4 and Vita, was always a bit harder to read: a strange arc subject to the momentum you'd built up riding rails, and subject to the gravity of levels that would loop across the screen.

In that jump you'll see some of the impeccable taste of Scram Kitty's developer, Rhodri Broadbent, who worked at Lionhead and Q-Games before setting up Dakko Dakko. There's some of the inventiveness of Treasure, and the engineering precision of Nintendo. Its elasticity is initially unwieldy, which made it something of an acquired taste.

"It was made for people who like a challenge," Broadbent says over Skype as he prepares this week's release of Scram Kitty DX. "The thing is, we wanted to create a game that people who really wanted to master it could, and feel like they've achieved something, and that's exactly what we did and all the feedback suggests that. We didn't really take into consideration that a lot of people want to progress through a game without really mastering challenges, and that's fine - it's a different kind of game, and it meant some of the response was like 'whoa, this is a really hard game'. And fair enough, time is important to people and they don't want to spend it learning a crazy gravity system that's never been done before.

"The problem we had is that we didn't think of it as something difficult so much as something new, and once you get the hang of it it's fine. People who are good at the game are rally good at it. We had that beforehand - we had discussions about how to market it, and we had to try and convince this market that had got a bit same that it's good to have things that are new and weird and get better at them, because it's fun when you're better them. We tried to get this message out that it's not hard, it's new."

Even amidst the esoterica on the Wii U, Scram Kitty stands out as unique: an on-rails shooter that's got the gall to place you on real rails, and one told with the candy colour of Gary Lucken's artwork. It's a game that always felt at home on the Wii U, a console that Broadbent was in thrall to when work started on Scram Kitty, and one he's still affectionate about today.

"I love it! It's still a little joy box to me. As a developer, I'm still working on a project right now I can't talk about now on the Wii U. It always brings a lot of new potential to gameplay, because you think about things in a different way. It's always nice to have more control options, and more weirdness in your hardware in terms of being able to inspire new ideas in a developer. I'm sad it hasn't reached the market it was supposed to, or I expected it to. But in terms of delivering good games I think it's doing well.

"I'm a big fan of all crazy hardware. As a kid, and as a developer, I've always been interested in things that use hardware and interesting ways, and interesting hardware that brings new interesting experiences. That is the essence of gameplay for me, that fusion of the hardware and software together - when the hardware's more quirky, the software can become so."

The last generation has been good for crazy hardware, even if it's all latent: think of Kinect, sitting there without a killer app after all these years, or of PlayStation Move and PlayStation Camera. "They all have potential and the quirks to them, but developers don't seem to take much advantage of them. It's just that Nintendo puts them to the forefront because they're perhaps a bit more peculiar, so you end up with more people using them, because that's more what that platform's about. But actually a lot of the platforms have things that could make for previously unseen gameplay - they're just not being used in that way."

Scram Kitty DX may not be making use of the more eccentric features of the PS4 and Vita, but it's spreading itself out a little to make the most of its new host, with cross-buy, leaderboards and trophies. It's a homecoming of sorts, too, with Dakko Dakko's first two games - the wonderfully named Floating God Saves the Pilgrims and The 2D Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character - coming as part of PlayStation's short-lived Minis programme. It's nice to finally have them compiled on one platform, where you can see some of Dakko Dakko's attention to detail come into focus.

"My personal philosophy is that the game engine is part of the gameplay itself," says Broadbent, after offering a caveat that the likes of GameMaker and Unity are important in allowing for more diversity in design. "It creates the feel of the game. If you're using someone else's game engine, it's a lot harder to not get a bit more homogeneous with the feel of your game. So the philosophy, is that the game engine has to be made alongside the gameplay, and the two have to intertwine, just like the hardware. That way you end up with the feel that you want, the engine will feed into the gameplay and the gameplay will feed back into the engine and you'll get exactly what you want."

Which brings us back to that jump and its eccentric arc. It can feel kind of fussy at first, though spend a little time with it and it's clearly it's the result of delicate, well-practised engineering. When playing Dakko Dakko's games, it seems, perfectionism is often a two-way street.

Scram Kitty DX is out on PS4 and Vita today. You can read our original review of the Wii U version here.

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Martin Robinson

Martin Robinson

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Martin is Eurogamer's editor-in-chief. He has a Gradius 2 arcade board and likes to play racing games with special boots and gloves on.

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