Gato Roboto may be an exercise in expectations, yet depending on what you’re looking for in this experience it may be a disappointment, or great fun. This is not a sprawling and involved Metroidvania, for all intents and purposes, this a small and modest experience. There are not hundreds of upgrades and myriads of abilities. It’s a relatively tiny world with very little backtracking involved. It’s a title that could be completed in three to four hours. However if you go in, looking for a bite-size retro Metroid clone, then you’re in for a wildly fun romp. Everything that it attempts to do in its small scope is done with sublime thought and execution.
Gato Roboto is set in the far future. You play as a cat whose owner, a soldier, finds a distress signal out in the sector of space he was patrolling. Before he gets a chance to land and check it out, the player character jumps up on the control panel and messes around with the buttons, as cats do, crashing the ship into an abandoned research base. Your owner gets trapped in the crashed remains, and it’s your job to find a way out. The story evolves from there but it always stays lighthearted, and the dialogue often had me chuckling throughout.
The minimalist mentality shows itself from the very beginning; there is a utilitarian but well-made two tone art style in this game. Gato Roboto seems content with doing as much as possible with as little as possible. Graphics-wise, this is very simple and barebones, but it still manages to be so expressive and interesting. The world around you is distinct and the multiple areas of the base each have subtle features that make them stand out – for instance, the heater core has lava flowing from the ceiling while the aqueducts are filled with water. These are very minor touches that give the player an idea of their place on the ship, which could have been difficult with such a simple art style. In the same sense, the enemies all look fantastic and have a charming cartoon style. Most of the game keeps a cartoon-like attitude and general look.
However, that kiddish feel does not translate to all parts of the game, and while Gato Roboto starts seemingly pretty easy, it gets progressively harder as it progresses. It’s nothing too terribly punishing but it should not be taken lightly, especially when it comes to some of the wonderful and intense bosses. The overall flow of gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played a Metroidvania in the last 20 years – you move around an open world finding abilities and upgrading stuff in order to unlock new areas and bosses, fighting tons of enemies along the way. This title is not interested in innovating from that tried and true formula, instead taking all the pillars of the genre and polishing them to a perfect shine. This may be disappointing to some, especially avid fans of this type of game, however there’s still wonderful craft here.
Level design is excellent throughout, with very clear pathing that makes Gato Roboto go by at a breakneck pace. New platforming challenges and obstacles are introduced steadily throughout, making sure you aren’t doing the same thing for too long. Each of those areas are also filled with organized and effective enemy placements and battles. Every new adversary adds an extra layer to the combat and they put them together in wonderfully inventive ways, especially near the end.
Layering on those well-made enemy encounters is a steady helping of new abilities and upgrades that slightly alter the experience. There’s nothing too crazy – mostly expected things, like double jump and extra firepower – however each one of them feels great to use. In fact, the whole game feels tight and fun to play, and navigating the world starts becoming engaging with the abilities you get access to later on.
If you’re looking for something retro and breezy to play through in an evening, you’ll have a great time with Gato Roboto on Xbox One. This is a funny and charming experience from beginning to end, and it’s clear the developers deeply understand, and are fans of, the genre they were working with. Gato Roboto, while maybe too hesitant to do anything new, is still great fun and well-designed.