Title: Gato Roboto
Release Date: May 30, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Devolver Digital
When I first saw this charming-looking platformer named Gato Roboto I was enamored with the thought of a cat piloting a mech full of funny dialog and challenging bosses. However, the excitement quickly fell to the wayside when all I found was a game that’s your basic cookie-cutter platformer, which begs the question if the premise could have been a crocodile with augmentations blasting through an 18th-century cathedral and there would be no difference. With that said, if Gato Roboto was shooting to just be nothing but this, then it definitely achieved what it set out to accomplish.
Gato Roboto begins with a space lieutenant investigating an SOS alert from a research center with his cat, Kiki. After this, Kiki accidentally crash-landed the ship and pinned the lieutenant to his chair. This leaves the saving up to Kiki and it ventures off to address a mysterious rescue beacon.
After the first scenes, the game opens up its lighter version of a Metroidvania, with a few areas accessed from the hub world. From here, the cat pilots a mech to fights through various robots and animals in order to repair the damaged space station as well as find the people that sent the beacon.
As the story plays out the lieutenant guides Kiki through the tasks at hand, regardless of the dialog pointing to the fact that the lieutenant cannot understand the cat, but is still depending on it to save everyone’s life. The humorous tone set in the game is light-hearted and can pull out a chuckle or two. Yet, much like the premise, the appeal ends there. You see, once you get past the novelty of being a cat hero and having some fun dialog moments between its partner, your left to focus on the gameplay, which never quite finds its stride.
The same can be said about the environments. Crashing into a space station on a remote planet could have yielded an interesting setting with various hazards. However, what player gets instead is a two colored layout that may as well be guidelines for where the player can and can’t walk on. While there are a few obstacles, none do anything that fans of platformers haven’t seen before. Lava sections have melting fountains spurt up and down and underwater sections that have Kiki jump into a submarine and battle octopuses. These sections are of your typical platforming fair that feels a little played out in a 2019 title.
Gato Roboto has collectible palette swaps that can be found around the maps that add some flair by having a red and black aesthetic like the virtual boy or a two-toned green reminiscent of an old Gameboy. Of course, the palettes are optional with a good amount to collect and choose from.
Speaking of which, the gameplay of Gato Roboto has simple mechanics including jumping and shooting, along with various unlockable add-ons for your mech that fair well in your adventures. Actions like double jumping or a dash are added throughout the campaign and give players the ability to reach higher platforms or get through obstacles. All of which feel familiar to those who have played retro style action platformers.
With such a barebones approach to fleshing this platformer out, it’s easy to forget that Gato Roboto is a Devolver Digital published game. With usual entries from the quirky publisher having flashy or unique visuals or gameplay, I can only really see Gato Roboto being appreciated for its straightforward adventure with zero learning curves. Many times in my playthrough I expected dynamic uses of the dashing technique being used as a skillful way to dash into a boss and attack the weak point from inside or perhaps using the spinning double jump to bounce from enemy to enemy to clear large areas yet the credits rolled without a single unique characteristic.
The closest you get to a unique option is when Kiki can exit the mech to climb high walls and fit into tight areas. The vulnerability of the tiny cat does lead to challenging moments when a stage would begin with the cat being forced out of the mech, but these moments are short-lived when the player finds the save point that automatically spawns the mech again. I longed for a boss fight that had me get out of the mech to survive instead of smacking the firing button repeatedly but to no avail.
As for how the game actually uses its limited toolset, the mechanics of them are smooth and do the job. Blasters are low damage but quick, while rockets are limited yet explosive. Though that’s not to say the tried and true approach is perfect. There were times I found the jumping height and arch to be sensitive down to the pixel. Which makes clearing gaps with a double jump have different results regardless of me pressing the button with seemingly equal timing. Leaving me with a feeling that I was just lucky to reach a ledge with just a sliver of accuracy. That can be fine when I’m trying to collect rare items hidden throughout the world but the jumps I spent longer than needed were in areas I needed to progress or backtrack through.
The same feelings of being lucky can also be said about the enemies in Gato Roboto. While plenty of the bad guys have their hurdles and patterns, there is an equal amount who seem to just launch a barrage of random attacks. Additionally, enemies that tend to crowd a room cause me to jump and dodge endlessly while the next set of enemies are a breeze. Changing a strategy or otherwise mashing buttons results in death. When a win is in my favor it’s followed with a breath of frustration. In general, the enemies and bosses just are not designed in a consistent or progressing way. One fight is easy to learn and fair while the next is more of a blitzkrieg. In the end, the boss encounters end up being something that you want to get through instead of look forward to.
Most of my problems with Gato Roboto don’t stem from the gameplay or the premise directly but the opportunity the two factors could have brought to the table had some serious potential. What I would have liked to see is a cat-like mech that has paw swiping attacks, loud screeching meows, and leaps around — and maybe the stages start off as familiar beats of a platformer but start adding modern innovations like moving platforms or intrigue environmental puzzles. Yet, if you played any sort of retro-styled action platformer, then you already played Gato Roboto. But if you’re okay with that, and you want a quick platformer with a low cost of entry, this offers a decent 4-hour campaign.
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