Domo arigato, Mr. Gato Roboto.
Gato Roboto plays, looks, sounds, and feels like Metroid, but you’re a cat, in a robot suit. Need I say more? I had the pleasure of demoing the game at the Devolver Digital booth at PAX West this year, and I saw a lot of promise in my fifteen-minute session.
After a brief cutscene where an errant paw causes your spaceship to crash onto an unknown planet, you take control of the pilot’s pet cat. The cat can run, jump, and climb walls, and after a little exploration, you find a tube-like structure that will look familiar to anyone who has played a 2D Metroid game. The structure provides the cat with a robot suit that can shoot laser beams. After some exploration in the suit, I came across health, rocket, and jump upgrades that allowed me to access new areas on the planet. When faced with impassable barriers or impossible jumps, I kept these in mind as I traversed and eventually returned to them as I unlocked new abilities. That said, the game more or less funneled me back to areas I needed to re-visit after I had powered up anyway. The demo ended with a boss fight against a mouse in a robot suit (what else?), and a familiar-looking elevator platform that would take me deeper inside the planet.
The movement and shooting felt tight, and it was a nice change of pace to play through sections where I had to leave the robot suit behind and navigate narrow tunnels as the defenseless kitty. The black and white aesthetic of the game contributed to both the atmosphere and the humor, and Gato Roboto does a wonderful job of balancing a sense of isolation with the cute and funny interactions between the ship pilot and his cat. The music is suitably moody and foreboding and the juxtaposition with the light-hearted characters and story of the game simply works.
One concern I had after finishing the demo and collecting my thoughts is that the game did seem a little easy for this long-time Metroid fan. Enemies were fairly simple, and even though they didn’t drop items to replenish my health, I frequently encountered rooms where I could re-equip my robot suit or refill my hit points. Backtracking was part of the experience, but it was often very clear where I had to go next. The lone boss fight was fun but not much of a challenge. Because of the clear inspiration that Gato Roboto takes from the Metroid series, one might expect the difficulty level to be similar, and it will be interesting to see if the game shapes up that way. Nonetheless, the three-person team creating Gato Roboto are making something special, and I’m eager to see the finished product. You can expect to be playing this retro homage in the first half of 2019.