America - Front
America - Back
By Evan Norris 03rd Jun 2019 | 3,367 views
Not every game needs to be ground-breaking or state-of-the-art. Sometimes all you need is a great formula and a cute cat. Such is the situation with Gato Roboto, a Metroid clone that leans into the best of that franchise: 2D action-platforming, labyrinthine maps, hidden power-ups, and memorable boss fights. It's a solid entry in the Metroidvania camp, let down only by its short running time and low difficulty.
Gato Roboto embraces that most foundational of sci-fi beginnings—a ship responds to a distress call on an alien world—but flips the script by sidelining the heroic soldier and elevating his feline companion. While the ship's captain is stuck in his crashed vessel, his adorable cat Kiki is free to roam the surface and depths of a mysterious world, fighting hostile life forms and automated defenses, discovering and upgrading a Samus Aran-esque power suit, and, ultimately, unraveling a surprisingly sinister and sentimental story. Overall, Gato Roboto finds a meaningful mix of genre subversion and sarcasm on one hand and pathos on the other. Pro tip: be sure to load your saved game after the credits roll for a cute epilogue.
Apart from its unusual hero, Gato Roboto sticks closely with the Metroidvania formula. It's a 2D action-adventure game with platforming, real-time combat, large maps, secret rooms, optional upgrades, and climactic boss encounters. The action is fun and fluid, thanks to Kiki's agile mech suit and some flexible (if borderline loose) controls. Exploration is fun and never tedious, due to developer Doinksoft's efficient use of space and shortcuts. Finally, for the completionists in the audience, there are plenty of hidden health upgrades and cassettes, which provide different color palettes.
Those palettes, which come in everything from "grape" to "Meowtrix", are a welcome sight, especially because Gato Roboto, despite extracting a lot of personality from its 8-bit graphics, suffers from a monochromatic aesthetic. It's just not as visually-rich as other Metroidvania titles on the market.
Its two-color scheme notwithstanding, Gato Roboto manages to evoke a sense of place across its several biomes. Heat lines and plumes of fire dominate the furnace area, while leaky pipes and deep pools of water define the aqueducts. In addition, each area comes with its own unique challenges and bosses. In underwater sections, Kiki can enter and pilot a submersible. In the claustrophobic ventilation area, Kiki must disengage her power suit and travel unarmed through monster-infested vents. There are a lot of different gameplay experiences in the game despite its short length.
Indeed, the biggest drawback to Gato Roboto is that it's over all too soon. While the maps and environments are varied, they're relatively small and digestible—leading to an adventure that could be completed in three to four hours. Furthermore, the game sits on the easy side, where regular monsters and platforming segments pose little trouble. There is one difficult section where Kiki must use her spin jump to bounce off four suspended mines in a row, to reach a cassette, but this is the exception to the rule.
All that said, Doinksoft does locate an appropriate level of difficulty with its extraordinary collection of boss battles. Together, these fights are the highlight of the game. There are showdowns with angry, sentient furnaces (which look like something out of Banjo-Kazooie), a battle against a flame-throwing mech over a pool of deadly lava, and an undersea skirmish with a multi-tentacled robot, to name a few. All are taxing episodes that demand patience, quick reflexes, and, sometimes, more than a few attempts.
Gato Roboto is everything you'd expect from a Metroidvania and, importantly, everything you'd want. Movement is fast and fluid, maps are vast and littered with fun secrets, boss battles are memorable and tough, and the game's locations have a personality despite 8-bit limitations. With more substance and trickier tasks, it could be a new classic. Even without, it's a fine example of the sub-genre.