You know what’s been missing from the metroidvania genre? Playable cats. Gato Roboto, the latest release from publisher Devolver Digital, looks to fix that with it sending players on a 2D sci-fi adventure as a cat that can use a mech-suit to beat down her foes. Whilst that alone would probably be enough to sell the game to most players, the fact that it just so happens to be a lot of fun to play helps too.
Your role as a cat isn’t so obvious from the get-go though, with the narrative opening with the heroic space pilot Gary heading out to investigate a mysterious research facility. Things go wrong when he crash lands into the facility though (which may or may not have been thanks to his feline companion Kiki). With Gary left trapped in his ship, it’s up to Kiki to uncover what’s going on and save the day. Of course, a poor little cat probably isn’t best equipped to take on whatever dangers could be lurking ahead, but fortunately the facility just so happens to contain some mech suits that she can use to get around safely. That’s a nice bit of luck, right?
It’s an undoubtedly quirky narrative that’s full of original ideas, though the gameplay itself is a bit more conventional. It embraces the 2D metroidvania genre lovingly, with players sent across a tightly-designed world that mixes up platforming, puzzling and simple combat mechanics, whilst using the power-ups you unlock during your adventure is imperative to progression. There’s a big emphasis on back-tracking too, with certain pathways blocked or unreachable until you have certain abilities, so you’ll always want to remember locations that you couldn’t get to before when you acquire said skills.
Anyone who has played one of the Metroid games will feel right at home here, with Gato Roboto wearing its inspirations like a big badge of honour. However, it does feel more like a metroidvania-lite at times – whilst it utilises plenty of the ideas used in the genre in enjoyable ways, the range of abilities at your disposal and the amount of exploration you have to do feels watered down when compared to similar titles. It’s not a bad thing by any means and it does make for a more streamlined adventure, but veterans of the genre might find that it’s not as deep or fleshed out as the games that inspired it.
The game world itself is well-designed and full of different obstacles that you’ve got to work to overcome. Sometimes it’s just a case of beating up some enemies in your way or hitting some well-timed jumps, but eventually you’ll find objects blocking your path or platforms that are slightly out of reach. Fortunately, your mech can unlock plenty of abilities as you progress, such as a double-jump to give you that extra bit of momentum to reach higher areas or the missiles that can smash any blocks in your path to pieces. In fairness, it’s always pretty clear when you need to use one of your abilities with traversal in Gato Roboto never proving to be overly challenging, but the sense of progression that comes with unlocking each one always feels satisfying. They can all be pretty useful in combat too, so they offer more than just a little bit of help in getting you around the facility.
Where all your abilities are best utilised is during the boss encounters, with each showdown providing a stern test that’ll require every trick up your sleeve. Admittedly, once you figure out the pattern of actions to dispose of a boss they become a lot easier to take down, but they’re still all creative in design and make for some of the game’s more hectic and enjoyable moments.
One of the more unique hooks of Gato Roboto is your ability to leave your mech suit and just play as Kiki in her normal cat form. Whilst using Kiki you’re a lot smaller so you can get through tighter passages, whilst she’s also a lot nimbler so can bounce around platforms with ease. The cat sections were some of my favourite in the game: not only does Kiki feel mighty satisfying to control, but there was also a sense of tension when using her that added urgency to your actions. It made for some great set pieces in game that could actually be quite difficult, but hey, it’s hard to get frustrated with failures when you’re playing as a cute little kitty.
I suppose the biggest flaw with Gato Roboto is that it doesn’t really do anything that you wouldn’t have seen done before. Sure, you get to play as a cat which is pretty rad, but from a gameplay perspective there’s nothing particularly distinct that’ll blow you away. It’s not a big problem because everything it does do it does well, whilst the fact that it’s not too long (you can easily beat it in around four hours) means that you won’t tire of the simplicity of it all. Just don’t go in expecting some revolution in the metroidvania genre.
Visually, Gato Roboto adopts a very simplistic aesthetic, but it’s one that looks snazzy and fits the game’s vibe perfectly. You shouldn’t expect super detailed visuals, but you can expect to see plenty of creativity with the old-school vibe. You’re also able to find collectible cartridges that can change up the colour palette of the game too, which adds a nice bit of variation that the player themselves can choose to customise. It just looks nice throughout.
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC