I know that I sound like I’m stuck on a loop when I say this, but I love Metroidvania games. From the classics like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid to the modern Neo-classics like Dead Cells, Axiom Verge, and, in my humble opinion, Iconoclasts, the genre has an incredible foundation with enough room within for each game to bring their our unique flare to these 2D side-scrolling world explorers. When executed properly, these game balance rewarding exploration with challenging boss fights with just enough narrative in the middle to keep you in the know about what is going on.
With all of this in mind, we got our hands on doinksoft and Devolver Digital’s Gato Roboto for review on Nintendo Switch and it has to be one of my favorite indie games of 2019.
In Gato Roboto, you play as Kiki, a curious cat that just loves being in the middle of whatever her human, Gary, is up to. While returning from a patrol mission, Gary picks up a distress beacon from a small planet nearby. As he is communicating with Mission Command, he is NOT paying enough attention to Kiki, so she corrects that transgression by hopping onto the colorful keys that seem to be stealing his attention. Their ship is no match for Kiki’s delicate toe beans and it hurls itself toward the planet, crash landing. With Gary wounded in the crash, it is up to Kiki to find help or answers.
Instead of finding help, she finds a robotic exosuit – which is pretty much the same thing. With a little coaching and coaxing over the comms from Gary, this tiny furry murder machine becomes a mechanize murder machine! Together they will explore seven different regions to discover the source of this mysterious distress beacon.
It doesn’t take long before Gary begins to wonder where all of the humans within the installation went. If you smell a rat, you aren’t terribly wrong. Kiki encounters a talking mouse with an armored arsenal to rival Kiki’s at his disposal. This literal cat-and-mouse game continues throughout your adventures.
Gato Roboto plays right into the sweet spot of the Metroidvania genre while harkening back to one of the earliest entries, Metroid 2: Return of Samus. Perhaps this is simply because of the monochromatic design or the scope of the world. However, don’t let the nostalgia goggles trick you, Gato Roboto stands on its own with some new tricks.
While Kiki is best armed and protected within her new robotic armor, you can eject her from the suit to traverse spaces in between where humans and machines dare not go. You may also find a submarine to help Kiki to make her way through watery areas. While she can swim, it is not her preferred method of dealing with that wet stuff. Be careful though, while Kiki can climb walks and scamper better than any cat I know, there are plenty of danger and denizens that would bring harm to her in such a vulnerable state. One hit and she’s toast.
This is a welcome deviation from the standard Metroidvania formula of “get upgrades, traverse landscape, win.” Even in some of the later areas, there are moments where the only way forward is to leave the suit behind and let Kiki squeeze through those tight spaces. One zone, in particular, removes the suit from the majority of your time there. Even the boss encounter leave Kiki to fend for herself!
Speaking of upgrades, Gato Roboto has ten Health Upgrade modules, eight abilities or augmentations, and fourteen cartridges to find. Abilities and augmentations include everything from missile systems which rely on heat to coolant systems to a variation on Metroid’s spinning Screw Attack. Cartridges, on the other hand, serve two purposes. The primary purpose is to receive upgrades from Reba, a sentient frog looking to assist Kiki. At nine, she will upgrade your blaster and at fourteen, she will augment your spin jump. The secondary purpose is change the color palette of the screen, much like we saw recently in Dig Dog.
There is a lot to purr about with Gato Roboto, but there are a few hiss-worthy items that we need to talk about.
While in her robotic suit, Kiki can only restore damage talk at save locations and upgrade stations. There are no items to be had for health or ammo. There are two sides to this. On the positive side, having no extra items makes room for how missiles work with the suit’s heat system. However, boss fights and rooms with high potential for incurring damage are even more punishing when there is no method of recovery in the midst of these fights.
Speaking of boss fights, Gato Roboto has plenty of well constructed boss battles. They are challenging, but it wouldn’t be a Metroidvania game without them! The downside of dying as much as you will during your first couple of stabs at these encounters is that you will have to push through the dialogue each and every attempt you make at it. Fortunately, the good designers at doinksoft made sure there are save points near most of them.
Overall, if you are looking for a Metroidvania game that pays its respects to its forebearers, Gato Roboto is worthy every penny of the $7.99 USD you will pay on either the Nintendo Store or Steam for PC. With the how much Gato Roboto feels like Metroid 2: Samus Returns, the Nintendo Switch is a great home for it.
Personally, doinksoft did something with this game that I never thought possible: it made me actually like a cat.
Gato Roboto is a delightful Metroidvania title that favors the classics enough to feel a sense of connection to them while forging is own path forward. Filled with plenty of humor, challenge, and healthy heap of cattitude, Gato Roboto is a purr-fectly satisfy title.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by PR.
COMPARE TO: Metroid 2: Return of Samus, Blaster Master
OVERALL SCORE: 9.5/10
Solid Metroidvania with fresh game mechanics
Challenging boss encounters
No health restoration outside of save locations
Dialogue before each boss fight is repeated