There's no shortage of Metroidvania games nowadays. Recent entries in this genre, such as Hollow Knight, Dead Cells, and Axiom Verge, don't shy away from incorporating a more dark or serious tone. That's why my brief time previewing Gato Roboto feels fresh, original, and is reinvigorating my love for the genre.
The premise is adorable, and it hooked me right away. You play as Kiki the cat. After crashing to the surface of a planet, your owner tasks you with finding a way out of the mess. Kiki is equipped with a robotic suit that shoots, jumps, and blasts rockets at various enemies.
Most of the gameplay so far comprises exploring the underground areas of this planet. The map is appropriately labyrinthine and certain areas are inaccessible from the start. You'll find more upgrades and paths as you go, including the aforementioned rocket that blasts rock walls apart. Another upgrade I found was essentially a double jump that could hurt enemies as well.
Enemies are fairly straightforward. These beetle-like creatures crawl on the surface and serve as a simple platforming hazard. A giant alien hive spawns killer bees that track you. Most enemies are fairly unsubstantial and only aim to make traversing the environment more difficult. You can take them out with your blast or shoot rockets at them with ease.
Platforming in Gato Roboto is where I had the most fun. So far, it seems like you'll spend most of the game in the mech suit. At any point, you can freely eject yourself from it and crawl around as a cat. You can scale walls easier and creep into smaller spaces to advance onward. Kiki's movement versus the mech suit's weighty steps is noticeably different, which I find to be a nice touch. You're more agile as a simple cat. One hit outside the suit and you're dead. The mech provides more protection and actually attack enemies.
The gameplay eventually hooked me in, but it did take some getting used to. My first hour or so was rough, because I had a difficult time getting used to the keyboard controls. I did not play the final build, but in Gato Roboto's current state, it has no keybinding options. Gato Roboto features full controller support, and I would heartily recommend players use a controller. On the keyboard, the three most essential keys used to jump, shoot rockets, and shoot your blaster are all next to each other. You aim using the arrow keys, so it was difficult to get in sync. Furthermore, rockets propel your jumps. I find it to be awkward and futile attempting a rocket jump, because the arrow keys control both the aiming as well as movement.
These issues were more prevalent during the one of two bosses I encountered so far. Running, shooting, blasting rockets, and aiming at the same time is a difficult task because of this control scheme. The first boss—a mouse in its own mechanized suit—felt more like a fight with the controls than the actual foe itself.
The other boss I fought was another mouse, this time in an underwater environment. I was in a submarine and so was he. The movement and aiming were less a problem. Instead, the problem was the boss's abnormally large health pool, making bosses feel like a bullet sponge requiring little strategy to overcome. I hope that later on, bosses will become more enjoyable, because right now they feel like a burdensome obstacle that breaks the flow of the game.
Bosses were the most frustrating part of Gato Roboto, but make no mistake, this is not a difficult game. The levels are well-designed, and I did not encounter any apparent puzzles. It simply feels like an enjoyable platformer for most of the game, broken up by some annoying bosses. Hidden upgrades and collectible "cartridges" are easy to find, though it felt no less enjoyable to discover these.
Cartridges change the color palette. It starts out as just black and white, although the sprite-work is phenomenal and very clear. By using a cartridge, you can change the scheme to browns, blues, and more. I stuck to the simple black and white. This scheme works well, but I do enjoy the option of mixing things up. Players will find this to be a fun little addition.
Gato Roboto appears to be on the right track. Despite some missteps in the control scheme and bosses, I find myself wanting to go back. The visuals are minimalistic but quite fun to look at. The platforming is weighty and the levels are competently-designed. Gato Roboto seems to be a relatively short game, but I can't wait to see how Kiki's quirky adventure ends.
TechRaptor previewed Gato Roboto on PC with a copy provided by the developer.