People love cats. From their aloof personalities to their soft fur and even their impressive hairball-heaving skills, there’s a lot to love about cats. There’s also a lot about cats, though, that we don’t know at all. Are they good cooks? Where do they stand politically? Are they skilled at piloting futuristic mecha suits on alien planets equipped with heavy artillery and rocket thrusters? Gato Roboto dares to answer at least one of these questions.
In Gato Roboto, Gary is a space pilot cruising the cosmos when he discovers a distress signal coming in from a nearby abandoned research facility. He radios his commanding officer to request permission to investigate the mysterious radio transmission, before heading to check it ou. You, the player, do not play as Gary. Instead, you play as the cat who absent-mindedly presses a button on his console that sends their ship careening straight toward the facility for a fierce crash landing.
Kiki, the cat, emerges from the rubble paws-first and unscathed. Gary, on the other hand, is in rough shape. He tasks Kiki with investigating the distress signal in his place, instructing her on how to find helpful gear hidden in the facility via her radio collar. The first piece of equipment you find is the titular roboto for your little gato. Luckily, Kiki can masterfully pilot this armoured suit, jumping and blasting away like a good kitty. For tight corridors or watery environments, though, she’ll need to temporarily hop out of the robot and risk getting her fur wet in order to make progress and unlock new routes through the base.
In case screenshots and trailers didn’t make it clear, Gato Roboto is Metroidvania style exploration-platformer. Specifically, it falls much further into the Metroid side of the category than the, uh, vania one. Your suit moves and attacks just like Samus would in the original Metroid game. Much like that game, you’ll be exploring underground areas and uncovering upgrades and new weapons that will help you overcome obstacles blocking further paths.
Gato Roboto plays it disappointingly safe with these upgrades, though, and never really gives you any unique or interesting abilities. You get health upgrades, a missile launcher, a spin jump, and so on. They’re things we’ve all seen before, and it’s a shame that the game doesn’t really think outside of the litter-box with the kind of abilities and upgrades available to you.
The aesthetic of the game is, similarly, a little too faithful to its inspirations. The environments that you explore are very, very Metroid. The underground caverns and sleek laboratories all seem just a little too similar to the kinds of environments you’d see out of other examples of the genre, and never really stand out. The most egregious thing to me are the orb-shaped doorways between rooms that are almost identical in design to the doorways from Metroid. The color palette of the game goes for something fresh, at least, with a monochromatic white-on-black style that you can alter with unlockable colour schemes. The simplicity of the colours used, though, means that some enemies end up blending in with the backgrounds at certain points in the game.
While the boss fights in Gato Roboto aren’t always ground-breaking, they’re definitely where the game is at its best. Each of these encounters presents a considerable challenge, and forces you to memorise enemy patterns and sharply input counter attacks in a way that always felt difficult, but fair. I died multiple times during each of the boss fights I played, but every death felt like I was a step closer toward victory, rather than a cheap defeat. The platforming and exploration I had to do to get to each of these fights was made worth it just by knowing I’d soon be encountering another fun and challenging boss.