HIGH Undeniably cute.
LOW The underwater boss.
WTF The optional “tobacco” color palette.
I’d wager that the developers of Gato Roboto started with the name and worked their way backwards from there. It’s an excellent, delightfully singsongy title for sure, and the image that it evokes – a cat in a mech suit – is almost dangerously adorable. However, the game itself is merely a serviceable entry in the ever-crowded Metroidvania genre. Were it not for the premise, there’d be little to distinguish Gato Roboto from the thousand or so other indie games just like it.
It is a cute premise, though. A space pilot named Gary is en route to a remote planet infested with dangerous wildlife when his ship crash lands. He sustains an injury that renders him unable to move, and thus the responsibility falls on his cat, Kiki, to explore the planet and complete the mission while Gary gives her instructions via radio. It’s like After Earth, only featuring a protagonist capable of displaying emotion.
Fortunately, Gary was investigating an abandoned research facility when he got hurt, and Kiki quickly uncovers a nearby mech suit. While there are benefits to traversing as a cat – Kiki can swim, climb indefinitely, and fit into tight spaces – she has no combat prowess, and thus must rely on the suit’s lasers and missiles to defeat enemies, including a particularly mischievous rat that winds up having way more relevance to the plot than I’d initially imagined.
So it’s an exploration-based action-platformer that’s especially reminiscent of Metroid II, if only for the decision to depict the entire game in stark monochrome. The upgrades are all pretty standard fare – aside from the two aforementioned weapons, there’s a dash that briefly renders Kiki invulnerable and a spin-jump that’s basically Samus’ Screw Attack, and that’s pretty much it. The way the missiles handle is neat – they’re limited by cooldown rather than ammo, and firing toward the ground can be used to extend a jump – but for the most part, we’ve seen this all before.
The big gimmick is the suit itself. Being able to get in and out of it at will is the basis for Gato Roboto’s puzzles. The suit can’t go underwater, for example, so when players encounter an area that’s heavily flooded, they’ll need to momentarily abandon their protection (opening themselves up to instant death) in order to find the drain controls to clear the way.
Since Gato Roboto suffers from a self-imposed lack of color, the game’s different regions run the risk of blending together, and thus developer Doinksoft made the wise decision to distinguish each level through the mechanics themselves. One area, for example, is intensely heated, preventing Kiki from leaving her suit. The ventilation system, on the other hand, is a maze of pipes too narrow for the suit to squeeze through, meaning players will need to temporarily avoid combat and flex their platforming skills with the cat alone. Although Gato Roboto isn’t a terribly deep game, it’s also short enough – spanning only a few hours – that it never feels repetitious.
Yet for such a cute and exceedingly kid-friendly game, Gato Roboto is often overly frustrating, mainly when it comes to boss battles. Most of them have way too much health and only a couple of attacks, turning these encounters into unnecessarily lengthy endurance tests. The controls are tight and practice will yield better results, but an underwater boss fight using a submarine that handles like a car sliding on a thick sheet of ice ranks as one of the most infuriating segments I’ve played this year.
There’s also a bizarrely out-of-place sequence in which Kiki, without her suit, needs to navigate an incredibly complex gauntlet of acrobatic jumps while a wall of spikes bears down on her. Gato Roboto had placed zero emphasis on high-pressure precision platforming up until that point, so for the game to suddenly morph into 1001 Spikes is a sharp turn that Doinksoft doesn’t earn.
While Gato Roboto’s frustrations aren’t indicative of its overall quality, they stick with me because the rest of the experience is so by-the-numbers. It’s cute and generally fine, but in a genre this packed, it takes more to stand out than being functional and offering a few solid chuckles.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Doinksoft and published by Devolver Digital.It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately four hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Everyone and contains Mild Fantasy Violence. Nothing to be concerned about here.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.Note that the game is presented exclusively in stark black-and-white, unless one of the alternate color palettes is enabled.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Dialogue is strictly text-based, and I didn’t pick up on sound playing any important role. It’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. The B button is used to jump, Y and A fire laser and missiles (respectively), X is used to get in and out of the mech suit, and R activates the dash.
He was born and raised in Amish country and has yet to escape, despite a brief stint in Philadelphia, where he attended Temple University. He took a one-credit course there called "Career Opportunities for English Majors," which painted a bleak picture for prospective writers. Mike remains steadfast in his ongoing role as a video game critic, however, and has recently written for GamesRadar. Most of his work can be found on HonestGamers, where he has contributed over 200 reviews to date.
When not playing games or writing about them, Mike is a rabid indie music fan and ardent concertgoer. He doesn't read as much as he probably should, but his current favorite author is Alastair Reynolds.