Gato Roboto Review
Of all the basic chemical processes I learned when I was in school—longer ago than I’d like to admit—distillation was my favorite: it’s simple, quick, and relatively cheap—you reduce a complex mixture to something useful, such as argon (… or alcohol). It allows you to select that which you want and neglect the rest, and that’s how I’d describe Gato Roboto: Metroid distilled to its most basic, core components.
Metroid, a game so influential and relevant that it coined the genre’s name, had a set of basic ideas around which gameplay revolved: a map to explore with areas that aren’t immediately accessible, power-ups that give you new weapons and types of movement, and extensive backtracking using these power-ups, both to progress the game’s story and, more importantly, to unlock collectibles and extra resources. Metroid games usually have wildly varying playtimes according to how thorough a player decides to be in their search for secrets and non-essential power-ups. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, so to cut to the chase: Gato Roboto is these elements represented in their most ideal form, shortened to a byte-sized experience that can be completed in minutes (by which I mean 120 to 240 of them, if you’re not speedrunning).
For the most part, the game isn’t particularly creative with its power-ups, and it doesn’t need to be: double jumping, dashes and rockets are upgrades as old as the genre itself, and you can’t go wrong with them. However, if you’re looking for something different from your usual Metroid affair, it can come across as derivative. Even so, there is one change that twists Gato Roboto into a unique entry, worthy of its own merit: Kiki’s ability to walk out of the catsuit. I’ve always found the ‘small’ form of Samus in the Metroid games to be underwhelming: slow, difficult to control, and with limited vertical capacity, segments that forced me to use it extensively never felt fun. When Kiki sheds her mechsuit, however, what she loses in durability and attack power she gains in mobility: she’s fast, small, and can wall-climb and wall-jump. The game explores this well by scattering multiple segments where you need to use Kiki’s enhanced mobility while taking care not to get hit even once. It’s a compromise that works, and the prospect of playing as Kiki sans her mech wasn’t something that made me sigh in frustration.
Divided into seven areas with distinct themes, such as the flooded aqueducts or the fiery heater core, Gato Roboto makes good use of its OST and sound effects to complement the minimal 1-bit art style, which you can shift between different color palettes that you find in secret areas. Despite the severely reduced amount of colors, the quality of the pixel art is superb and there’s plenty of detail in Kiki’s animations, in or outside the mech, as there is with the game’s bosses, enemies and NPCs. The combat itself is the standard shoot ‘n dodge of nearly all Metroids, punctuated by boss fights that play around with environmental hazards and alternate weapons, such as the recurring submarine and cannons. It’s never too taxing, though you’re bound to die a few times throughout a playthrough.
The game will take you anywhere between two and four hours to beat, depending on how diligent you are in finding all its secrets and collectibles. It is a complimentary experience to the other type of Metroid game, where you can take dozens and dozens of hours to unlock everything and explore all the nooks and crannies in the game, and while I personally found this to be to its benefit—Kiki never overstays her welcome—others might consider it a downside. That’s a decision you have to make for yourself.
Gato Roboto has that sort of whimsical joy that’ll make you smirk several times through your playthrough, be it because of the way Kiki plops into her mechsuit or how she talks with the game’s characters through meows that only they understand, leaving you to guess what she said from their answers. It’s not a tour de force in the Metroid genre, and it doesn’t try to be one either—it’s a short, playful adventure you can see from start to end on a lazy Sunday afternoon, between lunch and dinner.