I love cats. They are such unique brats that only cat-lovers will understand the enjoyment of, and I adore every fur-head I have gotten to know, even if they attack me. Now, what would happen if you put one on a planet inspired by Metroid and give them robot suits? You get Gato Roboto: a surprising title that I almost love as much as Casper’s cats. Almost!
So, why do you not take a cat onboard a spaceship? Because they will surely cause some mayhem by pure thoughtless behaviour, and that is just what happened when Gary brought his cat, Kiki, on a patrol mission one day. Luckily, they crash-landed on the facility they received distress-calls from, but seeing as Gary is trapped within his ship, he has to rely on the cat to do his job. Yup, Gary has really no one else to rely on, but Kiki. The furball seems at least happy to be able to explore, and thus starts the game.
While Kiki will travel alone throughout this world, Gary can communicate with him through a radio-collar, which makes for some delightful bantering where Gary shows clear love and annoyance with the cat, who can only reply with emotions and of course: by simply meowing. It is adorable and relatable, giving the game some good humour. This is also being cleverly used for making Gary describe what upgrades will do and the locations you will visit, adding to the immersion.
There is an overarching plot that can be found by finding data-logs (which are literal computers) and these are nice reads to get more of an atmosphere of what this facility used to be like. It unfortunately does not amount to much in the ways of telling the story here, as every bit of lore or plot, is revealed in the end-portion of the game, making the trivia you find, underwhelming. It would have been nice instead to be able to create theories and have them confirmed subtly in the final fights, instead of outright telling what the plot resolves to. Still, it does not change the fact that the atmosphere is great and since it is that and the banter between Kiki and Gary is the main focus, it is easy to enjoy this game’s humour and dialogue on its own. And who does not love a smiley and naïve rascal?
Story Score: 8/10
Stuck on a facility in outer space with a mix of biological and mechanical scenarios, this title harnesses back to the original Metroid and that is exactly the genre it takes on as well. Gato Roboto gives you 5 areas to explore through as well as a hub-world connecting each area. The first area serves as the introduction area to this facility and the game’s mechanics, then we have three main areas to venture through, and one final area that can only be accessed after the other three are finished. Kiki is basically like glass, in the way that any contact with enemies or hazards, will kill him instantly and make you restart at the nearest save-point. He has no form of attacks, but is nimble with high jumps, can wall-climb which can lead to wall-jumping, swim despite his hatred towards water, and crawl through tight spaces. However, while his moveset is limited, if versatile, one of the main gimmicks of this game is the robot suit.
Whenever you are entering one of the many save-rooms with a pipe or just see it in the open, you can jump into one of the robot suits, which comes with a health-bar, a simple jump and short-ranged shots that can be aimed in four directions. This gives Kiki the ability to defend himself, but also like other Metroid-titles, he can find upgrades to his suit, such as a missile-launcher and a double-jump.
While these are certainly helpful, every upgrade comes with an extra ability. For example, the missile-launcher can both destroy certain blocks and enemies quicker and has a good blast-radius, but can also be used for gaining slight altitude if aimed downwards. It is also based on heat-radius instead of an ammo-count, which is a smart move for not having to search hours for ammo and to not spam it. Likewise, the doublejump can of course be used to bridge longer gaps between platforms, but since Kiki spins when doing this, he can also bounce off enemies or hazards for some clever dodging or platforming.
This makes Kiki fun to control and all of his abilities useful for exploration, platforming and combat. Speaking of, let us start with the latter first. Kiki is certainly a versatile fighter with his robot suit and enemies that are designed around what abilities he just acquired, making them all fun obstacles to overcome. The variety is great with the general enemy-type, such as jumpy frogs, bees that spawn from hives, balloons that drop fire-bombs, drill-machines that will drive towards you and more, making them all engaging to fend against.
The challenge is also great, as while the enemies are simple to remember, but entertaining to fight against, the only way to restore health is to either find a save-point or to find a health upgrade. Because of this, you will have to pay attention and be ready for what variety of enemies the rooms will contain, forcing you to make a plan on who to attack first. Luckily, the game is fair with its punishment by simply respawning you to the last save-point you saved at, and since there are plenty of them, you will never be discouraged from retrying.
The same sense of challenge can also be said about the bosses, as there is a good variety of them, with each fight getting harder and demands that you utilise the new upgrades you got for some quick thinking. These bosses are fierce with high defence, can pack a punch, and due to Kiki’s short invulnerability time, you cannot slack off. There are some reuses of fights however, which even the game itself seems to be aware of. This is a minor issue though, as the fights are rather like more interesting and harder versions of a previous one, making them still entertaining. In fact, all bosses are engaging to fight against and tests your ability to memorise patterns, your reflexes, and ability to play both offensively and defensively, making it hard to complain about seeing one boss a second, or even, a third time.
As for the exploration and platforming, it is excellent. Gato Roboto contains plenty of different hazards to overcome, such as lava flowing from the ceiling, areas where you must bounce off enemies in order to proceed, and crawl through tight corridors filled with creatures. The mix of platforming with enemies used as obstacles, is excellent to test your reflexes and motion in platforming, and never gets dull. Another reason for this, are the well thought-out gimmicks that the game comes with. You have three main areas to venture through, the aqueduct, the heater-core, and the ventilation, all having interesting ways for how you must traverse through them.
The heater-core will be so hot, Kiki cannot go outside of his mech-suit, the ventilation has many air-ducts that only a small cat can fit through, and the aqueduct features a submarine, which is not as strong as the robot suit, but gives Kiki a healthbar, ranged weapon, and easier controls under water. All of these are fun twists on the game’s mechanics, as they force you to take into consideration of one playstyle’s strengths and shortcomings, while still keeping the focus on the excellent exploration, combat and platform at a high level. Yes, even the water-level has great platforming, which is impressive.
While these elements are great, it gets better. First off, you have a handy map at your disposal with the press of a button, which showcases what room of what part of the facility you are in, and the locations of the save-rooms and elevators. Areas are easily memorable due to their varied and entertaining constructions, but it is great to have this at a stand-by and even the robot will give you coordination on where you are, which is a lovely touch. The platforming even incorporates some puzzles, such as when you have to transfer your robot suit over a hazardous environment, and can only do that as a cat, or when you must alter the environment in order to proceed. None halts your progression at all, as the puzzles are rather extensions to either platforming or exploration, which is fantastic.
This all in all makes for a fantastic experience, that I can only nitpick at. Besides the mentioned reuse of a couple of bosses, the game is quite linear in progression, so while exploration is important, you should never be stuck in one area. Besides this, the game is quite short and can be beaten within 2 hours, possibly 1 more if you go for all the collectables. I honestly did not mind this due to how fantastic everything is laid out, and because of the timer on the bottom-screen, this is definitely a title meant to be speedrun and for multiple replays. However, even with just one playthrough, it left me with a more jolly feeling than whiskers nuzzling my cheek.
Gameplay Score: 9/10
Style with technology
Many would compare this to a GameBoy-setup and while I would too, the lack of grey colour-scheme makes this remind me as well of the ZX spectrum, due to the only use of two colours. Either way though: I love this style. Gato Roboto goes for a simple colour-scheme to reference old-school consoles with flying colours (oddly enough). The setup is lovely and intriguing, with every design of the environments and creatures being highly detailed and come with plenty of animations, which are marvellous to look at. The bosses as well come in different creative machinery and are always a joy to witness, be they big or just detailed with plenty of pixels.
Kiki is lovely animated with fluent breathing and quick animations for travelling around. There are even some adorable details added, such as the playful and aggressive expressions he has when he shots. The same amount of love has been given to the enemies, as they come with tons of animations, expressions and variety, be they mechanical or not. Speaking of, most enemies are normal creatures that cats would fight against, such as plants, frogs, and even bees, which is really clever. The mechanical ones are instead creative monsters, such as droids dive-bombing and mechanical machines that are comparable to Kiki’s robot suit, and because of this, everything simply flows wonderfully together.
Then we have the environments, and they are just as impressive. Plants wave on top of blobs that seem to be biological elements taking over the metallic pipes, the heat-core makes the screen shift simulating the dreaded heat, the aqueduct has plenty of pipes and fish-monsters, and more that makes this feel like a facility with naturalistic elements that comes to life. I also love the small touches, such as the old-school 3D-effect, the strength and smooth design of the explosions, and just how well all mix together to create a lighthearted, cute and comical visual. This diversity and attention to details, makes me forget about and not miss the colours in the slightest, and that is impressive in and of itself itself.
The sound-effects fit perfectly to this style, using chiptunes in order to simulate talking, different types of shots fired, environmental elements, or just Kiki’s different meows. It is satisfying and bit-crunched, just like it should be. Then we have the soundtrack, which focuses on echoey tracks, with clear emphasis on sound-waves sounding like static or radio-signals, which fits perfectly with a setting set on a fallen facility in space. It is really a neat effect to emphasise how far away from home you are and that you are actually alone in a claustrophobic environment on an unfamiliar place in outer space, which is just wonderful.
This is also due to the fact that the soundtrack goes for long tones and to make the sounds feel like part of the music by not using only tunes that represent instruments, except for specific events. Instead, the mechanical sounds fit perfectly with the melodies of what sounds like old and rusty machinery, which is incredibly clever and well utilised. This is just a magnificent attention to details in the presentation, and is probably one of the best looking games in its decade because of that.
Presentation Score: 10/10
Curiosity saved the cat
With the timer always being at the bottom of the screen, it surely is meant to be revisited for speedruns and it is fun to do so thanks to how fast-paced this game can be. While I would like a mode to simply skip all the dialogues, you can get quickly through any of them by spamming the buttons, and it is nice to have this feature out of the box.
Outside of finding all the secrets, such as data-logs and health-upgrades, there are some other hidden stuff to uncover. Hidden throughout, are cassette-tapes that can alter the visuals to give it some colours or even reference older consoles. Collecting these will also give you upgrades to your arsenal that while are not necessary, is satisfying to have. While you will not get anything for 100% this game, it is simply just satisfying in order to do so, and most importantly: fun since it leads you to some challenging obstacles to overcome.
Extra Score: 9/10
A Metroid-game with modernisation that is important and cats in robot suit. This was surely a recipe for success and it shows here. Fantastic use of upgrades that will help with both exploration and combat, great platforming and enemy-design, engaging boss-fights, entertaining replay-value, cute banter, and a presentation that goes all the way with a concept to make this work. This is simply a short and sweet game, and if you did not love cats before, this game will show you why you should. If not…. Well, hopefully you will still see why Gato Roboto is fantastic.