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S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Team (NES) artwork

S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Team (NES) review


"I also feel I must note that it takes a certain lack of imagination to put together a game this short and still waste one of the available boss encounters on a generic shooter snake. What makes it even worse is that this generic shooter snake is generic even by generic shooter snake standards, since all it does is meander on and off the screen while occasionally releasing a homing missile."



On a lark, I looked up S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Team on Amazon, saw there were two used copies available starting at $75, closed my browser and started laughing. Times like this make me glad I’m not an obsessive collector. No matter how much I might want to acquire the game, I'd feel a bit demoralized spending that much just so I could say I owned an unremarkable five-stage shooter.

For $15 or so, S.C.A.T. would be a more respectable acquisition. At the very least, the game is solid enough that I won't be spending the bulk of this review using making fecal jokes because of the poorly-conceived title (besides, I already succumbed to that particular temptation back when I reviewed Toilet Kids). Name aside, the game’s only real problems are that it’s short and a bit lacking in originality.

Since there are only five available stages, a player is probably going to expect those areas to offer the sort of fun and memorable challenges that will keep a person coming back long enough to get his money’s worth. And if you survive long enough to reach the fourth of the five levels, you’ll find precisely that. Getting that far will only take the average player about a half-hour, but then things do get suitably challenging! Apparently, this is because the game was made much easier by the team responsible for porting it from Japan to America.

After starting the game, you'll realize two things. The first is that you only have one life. However, that one life should last for quite some time because your unit has the ability to absorb six hits before coming to its demise. The actual number can easily wind up exceeding six, as well, since scoring enough points allows you to sustain additional hits and, shortly before bosses, you're also able to collect an "R" icon which adds three more chunks to your life meter. On top of this, you are permitted unlimited continues. As a result, getting through most of the game is more a battle of attrition than a test of skill. All you have to do is clear a given level using one life and you've progressed 20 percent of the way through the game. Nice and easy!

In Japan, where S.C.A.T. was known by the (superior) moniker of Final Mission, your unit could only withstand three hits instead of six. Those three hits were also likely to rack up more quickly because taking damage would cause you to lose any collected power-ups. Playing by those rules, I'd guess that just getting through the claustrophobic second stage would be quite the ordeal for someone like me. Instead, I found myself cruising through the game until I finally reached its difficulty spike in the fourth stage.

At times, I got the impression that an ability to memorize things is more crucial to a successful run than actual skill. In most levels, the screen usually scrolls slowly and enemies are placed in tricky locations. My primary challenge was learning the layout of stages, so that I wasn't caught unaware by foes coming up from behind me and so I wasn’t pinned in the wrong spot when a big laser-shooting gun scrolls onto the screen while already firing its beam. Whenever I succeeded in S.C.A.T., good reflexes and skill didn’t seem to have much to do with it.

Perhaps I wouldn’t be complaining so much about the game's challenge if there weren't other problems, though. Heck, the cuddly and non-threatening Kirby's Adventure is one of my favorite NES games. And S.C.A.T. does have its merits; I like how the levels are connected by a map that shows your unit progressing from a cityscape to a cavernous base to an elevator that leads up into outer space, where you then take out a gigantic battleship before going on to finish off the evil alien leader. Your character is a human, like in Forgotten Worlds, not a spaceship. He comes equipped with both an upgradeable gun and a pair of orbs that either rotate around him or lock in place with a press of the A button (to provide extra firepower that is useful in taking out all those peripheral foes. There also are some tricky areas that take a lot of skill to navigate, such as when you're dodging bouncing lasers in the final stage or trying to avoid the big lasers fired by the fourth level's battleship while also trying the exterminate the horde of tiny ships buzzing around you like gnats.

Sadly, a few good moments aren’t enough to result in a good game. When it comes to the first three stages, it's hard to offer more than the faintest of praise. I liked the design of the first level, which requires you to move up, over and around buildings in a large city. That’s about it, though. For the most part, at least until the action picks up in the fourth stage, the bulk of the experience is forgettable. It’s not bad, but occasionally it can be annoying.

One issue is that this is a game where one special weapon can be vastly superior to the others. While the laser is just an upgraded version of the regular gun and the bomb is more distracting than anything else (thanks to the little explosion it generates upon hitting an enemy), the wave gun fires quickly and can cover a wide range. That makes your choice of weapon an obvious one. To summarize: this game only has three weapon upgrades and one of them is vastly superior to the other two. Combined with the memorization-based level design, the limited weaponry isn't the sort of thing that allows for varied gameplay. You can robotically follow a rigid pattern using the best weapon…or you can watch your lifebar dwindle quickly. Those are your choices.

I also feel I must note that it takes a certain lack of imagination to put together a game this short and still waste one of the available boss encounters on a generic shooter snake. What makes it even worse is that this generic shooter snake is generic even by generic shooter snake standards, since all it does is meander on and off the screen while occasionally releasing a homing missile. I don't understand why designers liked these things so much that they wound up making an appearance in nearly every shooter. They really do tend to be the least interesting part of horizontal shooters, and yet they're everywhere… including in S.C.A.T..

S.C.A.T. is the sort of game you see quite frequently late in the lifespan of any system. Released in America shortly before the Super Nintendo arrived, the title was fundamentally sound with above average graphics and sound, but it didn't really do anything noteworthy to stand out from other games in the genre. Though it's hard to condemn a solid game, it's also hard to recommend one that's only five stages long and which doesn't begin to show teeth until you're 60 percent of the way through it. Back in the day, games like this were the reason I loved my local rental places. I could pick them up for a few days, blow through them and return them knowing I'd gotten everything I wanted out of the game for only a couple of dollars. Now, by virtue of its pricing on sites like Amazon, S.C.A.T. is little more than an overpriced, unexceptional relic.

Rating: 5/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (August 24, 2012)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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zippdementia posted August 27, 2012:

I just can't get over the fact that there's a game out there called "Scat" and it's a serious game.
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dagoss posted August 27, 2012:

I had no idea that game was priced so high. I hate what ebay and so-called rarity guides have done to the prices of retro games. Once the flea markets dry up, I'll probably never buy another game.
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overdrive posted August 28, 2012:

Dave, I was surprised when I saw that number listed as its price on 'Zon, too. I'm not sure what my lead would have been for the review, but after seeing how much it's selling for now, I knew what it had to be!

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