Devolver Digital is hitting it out of the park this year with their indie game lineup, adding Doinksoft’s Gato Roboto to its growing list of must-play games. This adorable game, which they have cleverly referred to as a “meowtroidvania” is a fantastic, albeit short, experience that distills the genre down to its core, delivering a bite-sized adventure that feels right at home on Nintendo Switch.
Gato Roboto opens up with a somewhat generic space story, one we’ve heard many times before. Gary, the pilot, receives a distress call from a distant planet that he must investigate. As they get close to the surface, Kiki, his cat, pounces on the keyboard, causing them to crash land. Gary is incapacitated in the process, and urges Kiki to carry on without him. Conveniently, there’s a vacant mech suit near the crash site which Kiki is able to climb into and pilot without a hitch. With occasional guidance and praise from Gary, you’re off to locate the distress signal as a cat in a mech suit.
Once you get past the absurdity of the premise of Gato Roboto, there’s actually a very good game underneath. Just like the Metroid games it draws inspiration from, there’s a number of power-ups that you’ll collect along the way. These give you access to new areas of the map, or otherwise inaccessible sections. The game features six unique areas to explore, each layering on different mechanics required to progress through. There are also plenty of optional secrets to be discovered — a staple in the Metroidvania sub-genre.
The moment-to-moment gameplay feels great and includes a number of platforming sequences as you move throughout the various corridors and rooms. The different enemies you encounter are generally introduced in small “miniboss” encounters. This gives you a moment to learn their weaknesses before they are scattered into the rest of the world. Gato Roboto does a great job of slowly adding more onto your plate without making you feel overwhelmed at any given moment.
What really makes Gato Roboto unique is the way that you traverse the world and explore. Sure, you’ve got a badass mech suit equipped with a charge shot and rockets, but what about those small tunnels you’ll inevitably encounter? Instead of transforming into a Morph Ball like Samus from Metroid, Kiki is simply able to exit the mech suit at any point and explore on foot — er, paw.
In cat form, Kiki is able to climb up walls, which is extremely helpful for locating secrets in some rooms. But, if Kiki takes damage while outside of the mech suit, it’s game over, and you’re respawned back at the last save room. This poses a very serious risk when exploring, as you must be extra careful if you’ve gone too far since your last checkpoint. Furthermore, certain areas are only accessible by Kiki, meaning you can’t rely on your mech suit to carry you through the game.
Graphically, the game employs a monochrome retro aesthetic, similar to games like Minit or Downwell where it’s just simply stark white against a solid black background. It seems to fall somewhere in between GameBoy and NES graphics. What’s really neat, however, is that you can discover cassette tapes scattered around the planet that unlock different color palettes that you can swap between. They still retain a two-tone look, but give the game more character. For instance, one palette resembles the puke green of the original GameBoy, with another channeling its inner Virtual Boy with red-on-black. All of these palette swaps are purely cosmetic, but gives the player something to search for if you’re interested.
The sound design for Gato Roboto is good, featuring all the bleeps and bloops you’d expect from a retro-inspired title. The soundtrack does a good job of not getting in the way. Instead, they opted for subtle, synthy tracks in the background as you navigate the foreign locations. Kiki’s cat sound effects are cute, and the mech suit has a satisfying clacking sound that accompanies it as you romp around the world. Overall, the sound sticks to the simple, lo-fi aesthetic that the graphics have set out to achieve, and does so thoughtfully.
Ultimately, Gato Roboto is a great, bite-sized Metroidvania game that can be played in one sitting. The campaign should take you around three hours to complete, but there is plenty more to search for and collect if you’re looking to 100% the game. This game feels like a perfect fit for speedrunners, and I anticipate a passionate community will emerge in the near future.
The overall narrative is concise with an interesting plot, but ultimately left me eager to play more. The game’s lo-fi aesthetic meshes beautifully between the monochromatic graphics and simple, yet atmospheric soundtrack. There’s a certain level of charm that is carried throughout the game, from the opening cutscenes to the game’s finale. Because the game is so short, it seems likely that I’ll revisit it at some point. Even so, I’m really looking forward to seeing Kiki embark on some new adventures in the future.