Did you ever wonder if your favorite games could be improved by replacing the main character with an adorable feline protagonist? The answer is probably “No”, but with Gato Roboto, the latest entry from doinksoft and Devolver Digital, I managed to learn that this indeed was something missing from my life thanks to the spot on homage to Super Metroid combined with the nostalgic visual simplicity and delight of a Game Boy title. Don’t mistake this for the many hybrid Metroidvanias populating the gaming world these days. This is the closest you will come to another straight up Metroid title without booting up one of your retro systems.
The setup is relatively simple. Your adorable kitty character, Kiki, accidentally causes your shuttle to crash land by doing what cats do best and wildly stepping all over the ship’s control panel. As a result, the cat’s adventuring owner becomes disabled, leaving the cat to jump into action and seek out help while unraveling the mystery of the planet. Fortunately, the dangerous surroundings are filled with conveniently sized mech armor suits similar to that of the world’s greatest bounty hunter, Samus Aran.
Once equipped, you then proceed through familiar corridors and shafts using your cat wits, superior kitty pouncing ability, and gradually unlocked skills to open up new areas in this supposedly abandoned research facility that’s being run by an overly talkative mouse. Among the game’s greatest strengths is its excellent level design that both encourages exploration to unlock every last upgrade but is also straightforward and intuitive for the purposes of the main questline. You’ll never find yourself lost thanks to a Metroid-esque grid based map that slowly fills in as you unlock new rooms and regions. Even the backtracking for newly reachable secrets tends to set you back on relatively the right path meaning you never quite feel like you’re being forced to go out of your way just to satiate your completionist tendencies.
For a game that’s relatively simple, it also offers just enough challenging sections to test your skills, as the bosses and some very tricky areas where you’re forced to ditch your armor will push you just like the 16-bit classic it’s based on did. Even at its most difficult, the game feels effortlessly welcoming and becomes increasingly hard to put down. This is especially true if you’re lucky enough to have your own cat resting on your stomach while you play.
Overall, Gato Roboto is a charming and joyous 3-4 hour excursion perfect for reminding you of how amazing the 2D Metroids were and for having a breezy Summer weekend adventure. What it may lack in scale and production value that its inspiration benefited from, it more than makes up for in heart. The heroic cat alone is well worth the $8 price tag on Steam and Nintendo Switch. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be figuring out when I can get in my next playthrough of Super Metroid.