I missed the golden age of Metroidvania games, and due to that, have never really played too many. It’s not like I’ve avoided them, but I just have other genres that I prefer to play when I’m in my downtime, so I always pass on the opportunity to play them. I know, I’ve missed out on some top games this way, and I have watched lets plays of the Metroid games and they do look cool, but it would take something special to make me want to play one. Which is where Gato Roboto comes in, combining two of my favourite things – video games and cats.
In Gato Roboto, you play as a cat, whose owner has just crash landed into a research facility and is trapped inside his spaceship. After jumping out, you make your way through the opening ‘tutorial’ section – which is rather light on actual teaching, but more on that later – and find a mecha suit that, bizarrely, fits the cat like a glove. As you make your way back to the crash site, you fight all sorts of alien beings, and that pretty much sets the theme of the game. Your owner hasn’t been able to fix his situation, and he sends you away to try to find something to help, and you find yourself in a bizarre facility that hides a lot of interesting secrets within it.
Gato Roboto is a very basic looking game as it pays homage to the old Game Boy games, but it actually still looks really nice. With very little, doinksoft, the developers, have achieved quite a lot in terms of making the game look nice. All the environments look pretty sleek and character designs are also extremely nifty. The enemy designs are where the game excels, in terms of aesthetics at least, as they each have multiple sprites that, when put together, create a cute-but-threatening foe.
The sound design is, again, top notch, and actually is my favourite thing in it. It’s surprising how much can be conveyed by simple meows from a cat, but every noise Kiki makes is so adorable and has so much character in it. You can really tell what is going through the cats mind when it chirps and mews, and I love it. There’s also the other characters, and the enemies as well, which usually emit some fun, but angry, noises when they detect you and start coming your way.
Mechanically, the game works really well. There are a couple of different suits you can don, and you can nab yourself some upgrades for them too which boost their usability. I won’t say that they weren’t without their quirks, but overall I was enjoying it, and the levels are designed in such a way that you can easily hop yourself around and find some cool and nifty things. The weapons don’t feel too overpowered, and neither do the enemies, and jumping around is precise, but it’s never incredibly frustrating. You’ll never find a platform where you have to be pixel perfect to reach it.
Where Gato Roboto falls down, particularly in a genre that is so heralded for it’s exploration, is that there isn’t much point in exploring. Okay, that’s not completely true, but whenever I noticed that I could nip down a slightly hidden path, or a map node I hadn’t yet explored, I was disappointed with what I found. Yes, there would be an item for me to find and pick up, but more often than not, it was pointless. You can get a health pickup which is kind of useful, but as the enemies and bosses aren’t terribly challenging, it does take a bit of difficulty out of the game. The other thing I found a lot of were a bunch of ‘cartridges’, which you can use to change the colour palette. Unfortunately, there are only two, maybe three palettes that don’t look dreadful, so it feels very pointless trying to find these items.
The Final Word
Gato Roboto is a good entry point into Metroidvania games. There are plenty of little secrets to find – even if they aren’t totally worth it – and some absolutely adorable characters as well. It’s fairly cheap too, and you’ll get around five or six hours of gameplay out of it. More experience Metroidvania players might find it a little too easy, but for me, I thought it was spot on. Never too difficult, but still with plenty of challenge.