Gato Roboto, a Metroidvania Starring a Cat in a Mech Suit, Is Pure and Simple Fun

A good Metroidvania game is my ultimate weakness.

I grew up on Metroid titles, and Hollow Knight is my favorite indie game in the entire Nintendo Switch lineup, so when I saw Gato Roboto, it immediately caught my interest. Developed by the delightfully named Doinksoft, and published by indie powerhouse Devolver Digital, the game stars a cat in a powerful mech suit on a space adventure. Coincidentally, just as I was planning to reach out to review the game, a review key landed in my inbox as if it were meant to be. Playing the game only proved that point further.

Gato Roboto begins on a spaceship with a man named Gary and his cat, Kiki. As he's about to investigate the strange signal emanating from a planet, Kiki walks all over the keyboard, causing the ship to crash. With Gary trapped in the ship, it's up to Kiki to don a powerful mech suit and explore the planet to get to the bottom of the mystery.

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(Gato Roboto via Devolver Digital)

The game is light on plot and a little silly in premise, but that feels intentional. The game knows it, and it more than makes up for it with tight, exciting gameplay. In the beginning, Kiki only has a short-range beam attack at her disposal. While this proves handy in getting rid of frogs and insect traps, you have to get up close and personal with enemies to do any real damage. As enemies get more robotic, they become tougher, and a certain nefarious mouse will keep you on your toes with every encounter.

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(Gato Roboto via Devolver Digital)

Like any Metroidvania, progress sometimes means moving past something interesting and coming back once you've obtained a certain ability. To become truly formidable, you'll need to go on the hunt for mech upgrades that add more bang to your arsenal, such as spin jumps and dashes. However, most areas are actually self-contained and don't require any moves from other sectors, and often getting into a secret area is actually about applying your current skill set in an innovative way.

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(Gato Roboto via Devolver Digital)

But getting into the suit doesn't mean you'll be donning it permanently. In fact, Kiki must regularly eject herself in order to make it deeper into the world and uncover all of its secrets. She may only be a cat, but she's small and nimble, with the ability to climb up steep walls. On the downside, a single hit will defeat you and send you back to the last save point.

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(Gato Roboto via Devolver Digital)

While the mech takes damage upon touching water, Kiki rejects cat stereotypes, making swimming one of her core abilities. And Kiki doesn't only pilot a mech. The game also features submarines that make it easy to move through the water and shoot projectiles, as well as laser turrets for taking out obstacles and enemies. In one super-heated part of the map, Kiki can't leave her suit, while in vent areas, she must navigate almost entirely as a cat due to the narrow passageways. Success requires adaptability in all of Kiki's forms.

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(Gato Roboto via Devolver Digital)

Unlike other games in the same vein, enemies never drop health or ammo. In fact, there's no collectible ammunition in the game at all, so besides areas locked until all enemies are destroyed, you're allowed to avoid them entirely if you'd like. Your ability to shoot missiles (once you unlock them) actually relies on a cooldown system. This limits the number of missiles you can fire off at once, but also means you'll never have to worry about running out. This adds a different element of strategy than it might if missiles were a finite resource.

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(Gato Roboto via Devolver Digital)

You'll want to utilize them in the boss battles, which can get difficult. It's these moments that are most likely to temporarily halt your progress and require attempt after attempt. Since valuable weapon and health upgrades to the mech don't apply to the submarine, I found one underwater boss fight particularly tricky. It took me multiple attempts to wrap my head around his patterns and movements, and the process likely took longer than it needed to because every time I re-entered the battle, the game made me sit through the same pre-fight dialogue again. But when I finally defeated him, I did so with full health intact.

Gato Roboto also makes use of classic Metroidvania-style maps, showing the player the layout of corridors and the location of save points and elevators. It highlights areas you haven't visited yet, which makes it easier to find all of the goodies you've been missing along the way. Exploring off the beaten path unlocks additional health as well as cartridges, which allow the player to try out a new two-toned color palette (and are also useful for another reason I won't reveal).

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(Gato Roboto via Devolver Digital)

Speaking of that color palette, Gato Roboto has a really strong retro-inspired aesthetic in black and white. The character design is striking and clear, and the world design is as evocative as it is simple. Each cartridge adds another color swap that probably should be harsh on the eyes, but somehow manages to add to the world, and every time I collected a new one, I changed to it immediately. The funky electronic beats are also a ton of fun to listen to, kicking into full gear during explosive fights.

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(Gato Roboto via Devolver Digital)

This map definitely makes the game more straightforward, and sometimes more linear, than some fans of the genre might like, but I actually found this simplicity refreshing. I don'believe Gato Roboto was designed to be toiled over for days on end. Instead, it's about speed and accessibility, with thrilling combat thrown in to keep things feeling fresh. The game encourages completionism without being a stickler about it.

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(Gato Roboto via Devolver Digital)

At the point of no return, the game even alerts the player to go back and collect everything if they're inclined to do so. I deeply appreciate that as someone who's played too many games with save files that lead directly into credits. While I thought I was being a completionist, at the end of my run of about three hours and 20 minutes, I had an 88% completion rate. Doinksoft has a couple of patches in the works which will make the game more accessible and close up a couple of bugs, so I'm eagerly waiting for them before I begin my second run and go after whatever I missed.

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(Gato Roboto via Devolver Digital)

Gato Roboto doesn't reinvent the wheel, and it's not trying to. It's fun and easy to pick up, and the short game length gives it a ton of replayability. It's funny in a totally self-aware way, and concludes in a test of the skills you've accumulated and a silly, adorable ending that's a perfect match for the offbeat tone of the game. For just $7.99 on Steam and in the Nintendo eShop, I think the price is definitely worth the experience.

 

If you wind up loving Gato Roboto, click HERE to read my review of the must-play Hollow Knight.