With a long wait for information about the recently restarted Metroid Prime 4 project, Gato Roboto is just the Metroid-type game to tide me over until then.
Gato Roboto is one of those games that so perfectly emulates another game’s formula that it begins to feel almost identical. The nostalgia in me is triggered the same as if I were to sit down with Game Boy in hand to experience the adventures of Samus Aran; at the same time, it still feels different enough. I recently got a chance to check out the beta version of the game, and while the base game I experienced in the demo is the same, there’s a lot more to love.
Our fearless feline hero Kiki gets into more misadventures the deeper she goes into this hostile planet and her mech suit makes the journey easier. The challenge ramps up significantly any time you are forced to leave the Battle Armor, as Kiki can be killed in just one hit. These areas are meant to extra challenging in short bursts, but the game conveniently provides save points within the confines of the cramped corridors to help you out. Another reason you might find yourself abandoning your mech is that it can be damaged by water, but Kiki can swim through water with ease. Once you find yourself back on dry land, you can regain your mech by hitting a save point. It’s pretty cool to see this additional mechanic used as a gameplay ‘gate’ of sorts, and adds some much needed variety to the typical Metroid tropes.
One thing I absolutely must touch on is the map in Gato Roboto. For someone that has played through many similar types of games, the map system that Doinksoft came up with is both perfectly simple and overwhelmingly useful. I enjoy the hidden power-ups just as much as the next person, but when a game both shows you an accurate layout of what to expect from the game’s world and can show you the missed paths you haven’t yet accessed — it gives you a purpose and a clear goal to achieve without annoying subtexts and instructions. It’s a distillation of a map system used for decades, and while I don’t exactly feel it was broken, it certainly could have used some improvement — something which is delivered with Gato Roboto’s revisions.
Gato Roboto’s unique black and white art style may not be for everyone, but thankfully there’s hope for those gamers as well. Hidden off the beaten path are cartridges, which are used by Kiki’s suit to completely change the color scheme of the game. Fun nods to the original Game Boy color, the Virtual Boy and even old IBM PCs from the 70’s make the black and world pop with a bit of color, but it only swaps the black and white palette, so there’s no ‘Game Boy Color’ style colorization. Even so, it’s a neat gimmick and ties in with a vendor who will upgrade your Battle Armor after finding a certain amount of these carts.
Every ounce of Gato Roboto is simply oozing with the dedication and care to produce a game that feels like it could be truly part of the Metroid universe. The charm of Kiki’s interactions with her commander are endearing and makes me hopeful for a line of merchandise with the iconic quote “OVER AND OUT” on a t-shirt or at the very least a Battle Armor plush with Kiki nestled inside. There is some backtracking in Gato Roboto, but with a strong emphasis on simplification of both combat and traversal, the game feel so much cleaner as a result. Gato Roboto is set to likely be one of my favorite games this year and certainly one of the best representations of a Metroidvania that I’ve ever seen. With the confirmed release of the game on Nintendo Switch, the adventures of Kiki will certainly make for a sweet diversion for now until Samus returns.