Gato Roboto is a retro Metroidvania in every sense. There is a sprawling map to crawl through, plenty of power-ups along the way as you gear up to take down an army of mean creatures set on taking all 9 of your lives. You play as Kiki, The adorable kitty companion of Lieutenant Gary. After “accidentally” stepping on a keyboard in the middle of an official transmission you find yourself crash landing on an alien world. With your pilot pinned into the ship, it is left to you to find a nearby security mech suit and fight your way to safety for you and your owner.
True to its Metroidvania inspiration you find yourself navigating various parts of a space station trying to find out how to get into the primary lab on board. This means going into new areas, finding new traversal abilities and power-ups, then using those to overcome new sections of the station or revisit old ones for more hidden power-ups. Despite a familiar structure the game always feels like a love letter to the Metroid series instead of pulling straight from it. The most important difference is the ability to eject from your mech at any time and run around as Kiki herself. This is even central to much of the puzzle solving in the game. Whether it is underwater sections that only Kiki can traverse or hot areas where she can’t exit the mech, Gato Roboto does a lot to keep the concept feeling fresh.
As you traverse the station the power-ups you find come in your standard fare, either upgrading how many times you can use your missile before you have to wait for the cool-down, or new health kit modules, or new ways to get around to new areas. In addition, you can find cartridges. These collectibles will unlock new palettes for the game. The stark retro black and white can suddenly see new monotone schemes of various colors. There is even a virtual boy color palette in case you really want to strain your eyesight. The cartridges remind me of the unlockable palettes of a game like Downwell and they can give a well-needed change of pace.
With all of the available color options, one complaint I could find is that I wish enemies would stand out more. Looking back again at the example of Downwell the color scheme is black, white, and red. The red is very important, not just as an accent color in the artwork, but to differentiate things you should notice in the world. It could be spikes, enemies, or the gems you collect, but the color red becomes a very strong part of the visual language of a game like Downwell. Here in Gato Roboto, I found myself entering a new area and not noticing some of the enemies if I landed on a platform before they started moving. This became even more so when the all white enemy was affixed to an all white wall with a lot of other what foliage around it. You do quickly learn to recognize the patterns and shapes of enemies, but there are enough times where I wish the artwork would give me even the slightest clue what may be ready to jump out at me.
Another important factor of the Metroidvania genre is the map. The map of Gato Roboto is basic but gives you the layout of whatever current section of the space station you are in and clues you into where previous save rooms have been. You also see outlined areas where you may have entered a room but didn’t fully explore past it. This came in incredibly handy for clean-up of missing health-kit upgrades and cartridges. The location of these items was never deeply hidden, often just being behind a very obvious destructible wall. It’s a much more light take on the Metroidvania exploration, but it matches the light-hearted feel of the game.
Though the game has a sense of humor to it, seeing as you are playing as a small kitty in a heavily powered mech suit, don’t let the exterior fool you, there is definitely a decent challenge here. As with most Metroidvania games, it’s really in the boss fights where the game presses you for difficulty. Gato delivers in a satisfying way. It’s all about pattern recognition and knowing your abilities. In particular, I died maybe seven or eight times to an aquatic boss until I could properly time my jumps and dashes to avoid his large sweeping attacks. It was that satisfying progression of hitting a wall and then working out the solution to make it a cake walk to surmount.
This brings me to my second, and really only other, gripe about the game. Some of the boss battles, one featuring a set of three boisterous heaters, are hard to read when you are doing damage. The heater battle was compounded by the fact that these bosses, despite being large battles, didn’t display a health meter like most other boss battles. I was unsure if it was an oversight or intentional to the design. This mostly meant that I kept jumping during the battle because I really couldn’t tell if my shots were doing actual damage in the fight. By and large, every other battle that featured health bars made this more clear. This could have been a great place to bring in another color as well, to give a sense of where to actually hit a boss to actually do damage.
The other standout for this game is the audio. While the graphics are 1-bit perfection, the audio leans towards a retro feel in a different way. All of the audio feels filtered through an old worn-out analog speaker. The audio somehow still manages to mesh with the art style in a very satisfying way. Character dialogue as well plays out almost like a Sims-style mumbling, but as through it was recorded on a record in the 70’s. It’s an audio style that sounds as unique as the art-style looks.
Overall Gato Roboto is a fantastic Metroidvania and the Switch is a great system to bring the game on the go. The controls hold up great, the sound is top notch, and for the price, it is an amazing value. If you’re a fan of the metroidvania genre absolutely pick this one up, or if you just want to run around as an adorable kitty with a big machine gun.
Note: A digital code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
Check us out at Opencritic!
Unique Art Style
Good sized world
Lots of hidden collectibles and upgrades
Monochromatic colors can make enemies hard to see
Hit indicators on bosses sometimes hard to see