Meowtroidvania - Gato Robot (REVIEW)
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
If you love cats and were raised in the school of Metroid, I think I found the game for you. Doinksoft’s Gato Roboto has a charm that appeals to your sensibilities if you are the type who fits the above description, as someone who (learned) to love cats and grew up during the heyday of the NES/SNES… Gato Roboto was right up my alley.
Opening with a crash landing, the Captain is trapped on his ship with you… Kiki the Captain’s loyal cat… tasked with exploring the alien landscape to help save your master. In true Metroidvania fashion, you are tasked with exploring your new environment, collecting power-ups and weapons. You traverse the planet in two ways, as a cat (the Gato part of the title) you run and jump across the landscape. You’re agile, you can climb ordinarily hard to climb walls, you can swim, you can squeeze into tight spaces… like a cat. Unfortunately also like a cat you are extreme allergic to heavily armed enemies, that’s where the “Roboto” comes in to play. Early on when exploring you find a mech-suit, kitted out with an assortment of weapons and functionality that can be upgraded. This makes tackling enemies more manageable, something the proves difficult for a lowly cat.
Visuals are minimalist to the letter, a charm reserved for the heyday of the Gameboy era. The inclusion of addition color palettes (in case the white on black is too bland) make for an interesting addition. Personally I found the minimalist look novel but overall lacking. I feel like you can do minimalist without sticking so intently to such a flat look.
Controls feel tight and intuitive, “Roboto” mode controls well with jumping and shooting mechanics that feel incredibly tuned. “Gato” mode is fast and fun, albeit a little floaty. Running and jumping felt good and I rarely found myself frustrated by the controls. While the controls satisfied, it’s a shame that gameplay outside of the boss battles posed no real challenge, It felt like a permanent “easy mode” when traversing the alien planet. With how fine tuned the controls were, I was hoping that I could have shown-off a bit through challenging levels.
Thankfully, the boss battles didn’t follow the same “is-this-easy-mode?” design decisions the main game faced. From the first boss fight on, I was challenged. These encounters were never impossible, they forced me to effectively use the weapons I found along the way while challenging my platforming skills just enough to keep the challenge interesting. I always failed the first encounter with each subsequent encounter feeling more manageable. It reminded me of Mega Man bosses more so than Metroid/Castlevania bosses. Boss fights were the highlight of my experience and one aspect of the game I wish there was more of.
Speaking of more, at the end I walked away wanting more. Clocking in at roughly 3 hours for a casual run through, more so if you plan to chase down every little secret, Gato Roboto felt over and done with sooner than I expected. The story was charming and I enjoyed the moments where the captain would communicate with Kiki, in some very self aware cases the Captain questions whether Kiki even understands him.
While I love Metroidvania games, especially iconic titles like Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night, what feels bloated in many Metroidvania titles is when developers craft an interesting map that requires extensive backtracking. Find something in the far right to open a door at the very bottom that grants an item to get past an obstacle on the far left only to send you right back to the far right. Constant backtracking can be exhausting, something I was glad that Gato Roboto did not do extensively.
Your playable character’s duality is where much of the charm starts and ends, for me one of Gato Roboto’s shortcomings is in how the title rarely pushed the envelope of what a Metroidvania should be. It felt unique on the surface with an interesting visual design that reminded me of classic Gameboy games. I just feel like this is a game that’s been done to death and for a Metroidvania to stand out among a literal sea of indie Metroidvanias… it needs something more.
3.5 out of 5
Solid but needed more..