Gato Roboto (Switch) Review
Metroidvania is such a frequently used term, I myself have been unashamedly guilty of this. It’s rare that I could solely mention Metroid as being a direct inspiration for a game. Gato Roboto is that rarity. Instead of a bounty hunter named Samus stuffed into special armour, it’s a cat called Kiki.
Space patrolman Gary and his cat Kiki have gone to respond to a distress beacon. After a cat-related crash landing, Gary is unable to leave the ship and it’s up to Kiki to explore the planet/facility to help/get help. Kiki is a fragile cat, so it’s fortunate there’s a Mech suit that happens to fit in a cat, allowing Kiki to be a force to be reckoned with. She starts off with a more basic mech, only able to jump and shoot the basic cannon. After some exploration through the seemingly abandoned research station, you’ll be firing missiles, spin jumping and dashing all over the place in no time. I didn’t expect it, but there is a story throughout told through old computer logs or Gary talking to you, the cat who cannot talk. It’s obvious where it’s going, but it’s entertaining enough to get there
If you’ve played Metroid, Castlevania or any number or similar games then you’ve played Gato Roboto, a side-scrolling platformer and shooter with a touch of exploration. In similar games, the exploration is on a bigger scale and more open-ended. You work out where you need to go as you obtain items and weapons that open new paths. In Gato, it is tighter and straight forward. It does have a similar setup, while still being a more streamlined version. This helps keep everything moving, and you will find signs or have Gary contact you to show you’re going in the right direction. In a way, the scale of the world/facility and how it manages to condense the essence of a game like Metroid, it is almost a ‘Mini Metroid’. But It adds enough to make it something more.
I would be lying if I didn’t say the game follows the Metroid formula pretty close, hell I’ve even mentioned it several times already. But there are some cool bits that deviate from that formula. Kiki can hop out of the mech suit the majority of the time, allowing Kiki to access areas that are too small for a lumbering mech to fit through. Gato can also play on this in interesting ways. The mech also doesn’t handle water well (like most cats) but unlike my cats, Kiki is happy to be around water. Sometimes there’s even a little submarine allowing you to defend yourself in the watery depths. There are also moments where it can be too hot and it’s not safe for Kiki to leave the Mech which limits your mobility.
Getting out of the Mech, running through tight areas and being able to run up walls is more fun than it should be, and it’s almost a shame there aren’t more opportunities. That is until you’re reminded that one hit kills poor Kiki and find yourself carefully navigating around a bunch of creatures, but those moments are very rare.
One of the best additions to Gato is that instead of having limited missiles to use, you can fire off a few before it raises the mech temperature up and there’s a very brief cooldown. So instead of being stuck without ammo or running out during a boss fight, you can fire away with a little cooldown management.
Most of the time Gato isn’t that tough. It’s still easy to die if you’re not careful, but save points/healing stations are generous. The Boss fights are no slouch either, Kiki will occasionally find herself pitted against a particularly nasty mouse. This mouse also has mechs, boss mechs that can wipe you out quickly if you don’t learn the patterns. Most boss fights took me a few tries with increasing frustration as I got closer to winning. Patience really is the key. The difficulty spike is rough, especially when nothing else in the game prepares you for it.
Throughout the game, you’ll be collecting abilities. The more you obtain the more areas you can access back in areas you’ve previously visited. This is a staple of exploration games like this, but the only real upgrades to collect are health and missile upgrades or collecting cartridges. You collect plenty of these with minimal backtracking, so it makes it hard to justify trekking a few minutes back to get everything without it feeling like busywork.
One thing notable once seeing a screenshot of the game is that it’s all monochromatic. While the lack of colour does remove some of the detail you would usually have in a game like this, developer Doinksoft manages to make the most of black and white theme. One of the advantages is that it’s clear what’s a barrier, what’s destructible and what will hurt you. If you do get bored of black and white, you can find cartridges hidden away throughout the world which act as filters. These filters change the two colours to whatever you unlocked. I still preferred original monochrome, but I couldn’t complain about Gameboy-esque filters.
Gato feels like a Metroid mini, not in a diminishing way either. At a tight 3-4 hours, you can see and pick up everything. Over that time you’ll have played a tightly-honed game that uses gated progression to steer you around a reasonably linear path. This isn’t a bad thing either, it’s Metroid boiled and condensed down to its essence. It adds just enough of its own personality that you want to uncover the mysteries of the facility as they unfold throughout the game.
- You’re a cat!
- A mini Metroid
- A fun take on the genre
- Sudden difficulty spike with boss battles
- Backtracking rewards not worth the time chasing down