At first glance, doinksoft’s Gato Roboto is just a tongue-in-cheek throwback to Metroid II: Return of Samus, the black-and-white Game Boy title. Instead of our badass heroine, Gato Roboto has you controlling a mech-striding cat, but there’s more to it than just a very-adorable parody.
In Gato Roboto, you play as a man named Gary’s (of course his name is Gary) cat, Kiki. After jumping on the command station keyboard and crashing their spaceship on an alien planet, trapping Gary inside – same old story for any cat owner, really – Kiki explores the abandoned facility to save her owner and escape the planet alive. She fends off alien creatures with a Samus-like mech suit to unlock new upgrades and new areas of the facility, but when Kiki keeps running into a violent mouse (not a typo), Gary realises there’s something not quite right.
Gato Roboto‘s hook is in the “Playing a Cat” part, and this translates to a Metroid-like that takes a handful of forms throughout the game. You start off as a normal cat, which is your agile Zero Suit form that lets you run up walls, crawl into small spaces and swim underwater. Your mech suit (which you’ll be using most of the time) gives you a hit-stun blaster and destructive missiles but it’s larger and less agile, while also being vulnerable to water. Occasionally you’ll hop into a submersible, too, which has an underwater blaster and not much else.
It’s unapologetically Metroid with a few quality-of-life tweaks, like a missile launcher that overheats instead of using an emptying ammo count. Kiki controls reliably (a little floaty, sticks to platforms on contact) but it’s the contrast between each form that makes Gato Roboto so fun moment-to-moment. Switching forms is slick and painless – Kiki enters and ejects from her mech instantly – and the regularity of it, alongside its immaculate world design, keeps the game buzzing with variety.
As the next in a long line of modern Metroidvanias, Gato Roboto is less about getting lost in a dense, atmospheric world and more about keeping an adventurous pace. It feels very Nintendo in this way. Each zone feels fresh because it approaches the cat-mech dynamic from a new angle instead of just stacking you with more and more abilities. You focus on changing the world itself – like disabling heat vents or draining water levels – to open up more opportunities for the abilities you already have. This gives Gato Roboto a rewarding ebb and flow that’s reliably enjoyable and less tedious than its forebears could be.
Gato Roboto keeps you focused and forward-facing and, for some, this could be a double-edged sword. The faster pace means there’s less potential to get lost and opportunities to explore aren’t quite as common as other Metroidvanias. It still has the same spiral-pathed progression, where you unlock new abilities that let you explore more of the world; Gato Roboto just moves away from the more open-ended interpretations of the genre for something leaner.
Having barely played any of the original Metroid games (don’t @ me), Gato Roboto reminded me most of Image & Form Games’ SteamWorld Dig titles – though I found Gato Roboto better balanced and varied, personally. The tough boss battles (like simpler, more forgiving Cuphead bosses) and the variety of forms leads to a tighter game with few lulls.