Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Gato Roboto Review

Gato Roboto is a Metroidvania developed by Doinksoft and published by Devolver Digital. Gato means cat in Spanish, in case you didn’t know. In Gato Roboto, you play as a cat with a robotic suit. But there’s a Blaster Master-ish twist to Gato Roboto, you can step out of the robot suit and take direct control of a cat with a totally different set of abilities. Gato Roboto is a short, bite-sized Metroidvania, but it's also pretty cheap. It's available on Steam and Switch for $7.99.

In Gato Roboto, a man named Gary receives a signal from a nearby planet while on patrol aboard his tiny spaceship. Why he is on patrol or what kind of signal he receives is not explained, so I guess it's a distress signal and he's some kind of space cop. Gary contacts "mission control" about the signal and the mission control guy says it's one of their research facilities, but it's been abandoned for a while. Gary sets a course to investigate the planet when his cat, Kiki, jumps on the controls, hits something she wasn't supposed to, and sends their ship crashing down to the planet. Gary is injured in the crash, so he sends Kiki out to explore. Yes, it's pretty Metroidish. This is pretty much the setup for Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion.

When you first start exploring the small planet, you play as Kiki, just a normal house cat. Well, I guess she's smarter than the average kitty. You can run, jump, climb up and slide down walls, wall jump, and even swim. Kiki controls kind of like Mario in NSMB. You even swim by tapping the jump button. But Kiki's most useful trait is actually her size. Since she's so small, she can go into small tunnels, like Samus would using her Morph Ball ability. Kiki has no attacks; though, so she can't open doors or break rocks. She also dies in one hit. She's weak as a kitten! Thankfully, she finds a very Varia Suit-like robot suit laying around pretty quickly. This suit can jump and shoot an arm cannon in 4 directions, but it can't swim, and it's 2 blocks tall, so it can't go into small tunnels. That's where Kiki's abilities come back into play. You can hop in and out of the suit at pretty much any time, so you can go through the small tunnels or swim across the water and then find a way to get your suit back. Sometimes you have to bring it to you by pressing a switch or something, and other times you just have to make it to the next save station to have the suit teleported to you. It's a cool mechanic that sets this game apart from most other Metroidvanias.

Like other Metroidvanias, you can get a few powerups for your suit. Kiki stays the same throughout the whole game, though. There's missiles, a double jump, a dash move that can phase through some objects and enemies, and some upgrades for your health, arm cannon, and missiles. The missiles are the most useful, since you need them break through a lot of the rocks in the environment and they do a lot of damage. The game is pretty short, so while that's not a lot of upgrades compared to other Metroidvanias, it's fine for this game.

There's also a couple of other machines Kiki can use, but they're not keepers, like the robot suit. Some of the water areas have a little submarine with a gun, which allows you to open doors and kill enemies underwater. You'll also find a few laser turrets you can use to break rocks deep in areas where you can't take the robot suit into. I thought this was a cool idea that worked well with the in and out of suit mechanic.

As you explore this research facility planet, you'll encounter lots of aggressive robots and small animals. You find computers with logs that explain what's going on in detail, but basically, a mad scientist turned everyone into rats and frogs and has a bunch of robots that will try to kill you. You'll often be locked inside a room with these enemies as a sort of miniboss and you'll have to clear the room to progress. You'll also have to fight the mad scientist throughout the game. He's a rat riding a variety of weaponized vehicles. These rat bosses aren't super hard, but they are much harder than the exploration part of the game. It felt a bit imbalanced to me. I was never stuck on them for too long, but the sudden difficulty spike was jarring. I tried to see if the story matched the Styx song, "Mr. Roboto", but I can't really tell.

This weird little planet is very reminiscent of the original NES Metroid and Metroid II on GB, but its structure reminds me more of Metroid Fusion. Even though there's a lot of exploring to do, everything feels fairly straightforward. It was always obvious where I should be going and backtracking to previous areas is mostly optional because you can't progress if you've missed something important. The way the game locks you in rooms also reminds me a lot of Fusion.

Gato Roboto isn't visually impressive, but it runs well, at least. I played it on Switch and didn't notice any framerate issues or anything. The game has a cute style, but I have to say that the black and white graphics are kind of boring and make everything kind of blend together. I don't just mean the different areas either. I often lost track of fast moving enemies among the rocks and plants and sometimes wasn't sure what was an enemy what was some kind of plant or crate in the environment. There are a bunch of other color palettes you can find, but they're all still only 2 colors. A few are easier on the eyes, but most actually make things harder to see. There are some color palettes with cool names, though. Like a red and black one that references the Virtual Boy, a green and light green one that references the original Game Boy, and a green and black one that references The Matrix. Then there's one simply called "Urine". Seriously.

I just finished watching Stranger Things 3, so Gato Roboto's soundtrack really reminded me of its score. It's very haunting, ambient synth music. I guess it's also kind of like Metroid's soundtrack with a little bit of Daft Punk. I thought it was really good. It perfectly fits the Metroid inspired 80s sci-fi aesthetic.

I liked Gato Roboto. It's nothing mind-blowing, but it's fun while it lasts. And it lasts about 4-5 hours. The timer doesn't stop while on the pause menu, though. It has a fun gimmick with Kiki and the robot suit, good music, a cute story, a cute kitty, it doesn't overstay its welcome, and the price is right. You definitely will not find a better Meowtroidvania for the price.