Many people have experienced a cat running across their keyboard while using a laptop or computer. Gato Roboto attempts to answer the question of what would happen if that situation occurred in space. Kiki the cat and owner Gary are making their way through space when the feline tramples across the ship’s controls. The resulting mess sees the pair crashing on an alien planet. It is here that Kiki must go out and explore the mysterious to find a way to escape. That’s when she stumbles across a mechanic suit and becomes a mech warrior.
Released in May 2019 for Nintendo Switch and PC, Gato Roboto is unashamedly a Metroidvania game. This classic genre has seen a resurgence, ever since Cave Story released to critical acclaim in 2004. With so many similar titles available, any game of this type has to do a lot to stand out. It is fair to say that Gato Roboto does this by simply being a game about cats and Metroidvania. So, if you aren’t into either of those things, this is not the game for you.
Like most Metroidvania games, Gato Roboto is all about platforming, exploring, and shooting enemies. Mechanically it is a fairly basic system. Outside of the robotic suit, Kiki can fit into smaller areas and move with more agility. However, the cat is also much more vulnerable and will die in a single hit.
On the other hand, the suit of armor provides protection and extra firepower. Having a requirement to leave the suit is a clever way of varying up the gameplay. Moving around as a cat is a vastly different experience and provides opportunities for more varied puzzles. Ultimately, it works well as a mechanic.
Meanwhile, combat is not all that intricate when compared to other titles. You have a basic blaster than you can only shoot upwards, downwards, and straight in front of you. The range of the weapon is fairly low as well, so getting close to enemies is vital. Later in the game, you get access to a rocket launcher. Rather than use ammo, it instead limits use to an overheat mechanic. That means you always have it handy but cannot rely on it completely.
A mini-submarine and stationary turrets are also available to use. They help to keep the gameplay fresh and ensure you never spend too much time doing the same thing. It is an excellent way to keep the whole experience fresh.
Gato Roboto also has a collection of bosses. Most of them are not much of a challenge. However, one particular boss can be tricky as you have to fight it without using your mech suit. This is the only frustrating part of the entire game but even then it isn’t too much of a problem.
Obviously, Gato Roboto has to have some exploration. It wouldn’t be a Metroidvania game if it didn’t. In this respect, though, the game is like a lite version of the genre. There is no requirement to go back to areas multiple times and only a few collectibles are included. The developers focused on the player pushing forward more than looking back.
There are positives and negatives to this approach. The sparsity of content means that you can breeze through the game in a couple of hours. After finishing it, you are probably going to be left wanting a lot more. Still, I’d argue this is a better approach than forcing you to backtrack constantly.
Many Metroidvania titles fall into the trap of including huge amounts of backtracking. But this just means you are retreading old paths constantly, stuck in the same environments over and over. Gato Roboto’s approach still allows for some exploration while also stopping the game from becoming stale.
Like many other indie games, Gato Roboto has a very basic presentation. With a pixel art style and monochrome visuals, it is very much reminiscent of classic 16-bit titles. The developers have definitely chosen this look deliberately. It reminds you of the likes of Metroid, which gave birth to the genre in the first place. Even the sleek metal interiors that make up most of the environments are meant to ignite nostalgia in players.
This is also the case with the superb soundtrack. It manages to blend well with the cold, sterile environments of the world you find yourself in. Like the best video game music, it creates a mood and sets the atmosphere without the need for any explanation.
When you take into consideration the low cost of Gato Roboto ($7.99 on Steam), it is undoubtedly value for money. Even with the limited lifespan of the title at just a few hours, it is still worth playing.
For those who find Metroidvania games too tedious, this could be exactly the right experience to get you hooked. It takes the very best elements of the genre and puts them together in a very neat and accomplished package. Along with exciting combat and refined gameplay that remains varied throughout, Gato Roboto is simply a fun game. Certainly, it is a title that most people should give a go.