Gato Roboto Review $7.99
Title: Gato Roboto
Platforms: PC, Switch
Release Date: 2019-05-30
Game description: "Pounce inside of your cozy armored mech and set off on a dangerous trek through an alien underworld full of irritable creatures and treacherous obstacles in a valiant effort to save your stranded captain and his crashed spaceship." - http://www.gatoroboto.com/
Domo Purrigato Meowster Roboto
There is perhaps but one irrefutable truth in this modern era – the internet loves cats. It’s also safe to say that the internet loves video games! Combining these two loves and basing entire games around cats has been a fairly solid bet for many developers up until now. Hits like Cat Quest, Neko Atsume, Catlateral Damage, and Bubsy – among many more – have been beloved by many the world over. Oregon-based developers Doinksoft released their take on a cat game in late May 2019, and its corporeal meownifestation is found in Gato Roboto.
The game has a simple but striking art style – two tones of colour, and somewhere between the original Game Boy and a ZX Spectrum for fidelity. In terms of gameplay, Gato Roboto is a straight-up metroidvania (meow-troidva-nyaa?) while leaning significantly more on metroid than vania. If you have played the original Metroid on NES, then you will feel right at home as soon as you take control. In fact, it is such a clone of Metroid that you can’t help but feel like the gameplay itself is fairly polished! However, it is such a faithful clone that you might wonder if your time is better spent with the inspiration rather than the derivative. Regardless, it does differ from OG Metroid in a few key ways however – for one, you’re a cat.
I’m feline like I’ve played this before…
You play as Kiki, a small cat who gets stranded on an alien world after your ship crash lands. Kiki’s ultimate goal is to save her injured and incapactiated human, Gary. You do so by taking control of a mech (which looks very, very Samus-y) while puzzling, battling, upgrading, and navigating your way through the environment. A neat differentiating feature of the game is not being tied to the mech – Kiki can get her paws dirty and leave it at any time. While she’s more nimble and tiny outside of the mech, she’s also incredibly fragile. Many puzzles make use of this mechanic in some relatively creative ways, such as sometimes sneaking your way into other vehicles – these both maybe being the most mechanically interesting of the few deviations taken from its inspiration.
The game also tries its hand at some humour along the way; but, even as someone who greatly appreciates puns and dad jokes, it very rarely ever hit. On that note, the story largely feels like an afterthought – more like a series of unrelated areas that were tied together with jokes. Granted, bearing the inspiration of the game in mind, that’s fine – Metroid didn’t have the deepest story in its first iterations – but the reason I bring it up is that there’s enough time dedicated to dialogue that it seems like there was some effort given to a greater narrative. I will say, despite my grievances with the story in general, the ending is spectacularly dumb (in a good way).
Unfortunately, by playing its hand so close to Metroid, Gato Roboto invites many direct comparisons. More unfortunately is that in essentially every case, it doesn’t win that hand. At the end of my three-hour session with it, my feelings on the game were fairly negative. The biggest issue I had were that parts of it were actively unpleasant and not fun to play. In particular, boss battles were the downfall of the entire experience for me.
The boss battles were never particularly difficult; but each one took far longer than needed due to both your weapons doing so little damage, and the bosses having so much health. On top of them taking forever, if you were to mess up after a pattern change and die, you have to do the whole thing over. It was tedious, and really killed the forward momentum of the game. There were also a lot of them! Again, not necessarily a bad thing given the inspiration for the game; but they weren’t executed nearly as well as they could have been.
My last hour of the game was spent rushing from checkpoint to checkpoint, barely even stopping to fire a shot. I no longer cared about conserving health or searching for hidden paths and/or upgrades, I simply wanted to be done. The cute premise and well-executed lifting of gameplay from Metroid were ultimately let down by instantly forgettable design and terrible boss fights.
Purrfect? Sadly not.
While the game itself is fairly solid mechanically, when it’s firing on all cylinders and working its hardest to bring you the best it has to offer, it is merely okay. Unfortunately, most of the time the experience is pretty lackluster, and ultimately its problem is that it doesn’t do anything new – despite its quirky premise, it feels uninspired. While its price point ($7.99 USD) is pretty fair for a game of its length and size, I have a difficult time recommending Gato Roboto purely based on the experience I had with it. For a three hour game, having an hour of content which feels tedious and frustrating is a pretty difficult ratio to come to terms with. It feels less like the euphoria of a cat café, and more like tending a litter box.
All of this being said, I applaud such a small studio putting in the amount of effort they did and putting out a complete game which will certainly appeal to some. I absolutely look forward to the next project to come out of this studio, and hope they have found enough success with Gato Roboto to bring their talents to a bigger, more ambitious experience with their future releases.
- Mimics Metroid fairly well
- A real good/dumb ending
- Some neat out-of-suit moments
- Solid first effort from a new studio
- Doesn’t mimic Metroid quite well enough
- Bad boss fights
- Uninspired design