Gato Roboto Preview: Faster, Kittycat, Missile Missile
Kalvin Martinez / Sep 13th, 2018 No Comments
Gato Roboto isn’t the name of a cool sci-if themed Chicano Japanese fusion punk band. It is a game announced by Devolver Digital mere days before PAX West. Developed by the Eugene-based Doinksoft, Gato Roboto is a trippy, atmospheric Metroidvania centered around a kitty named Kiki saving the day.
PAX West was the first opportunity to play Gato Roboto. Holy hell, it was definitely one hell of an experience.
Am I Talking to a Cat?
It was a routine mission, but isn’t that always the way of it? All the scientist had to do was make it to the planet, do some research and get out. Things went sideways immediately when the ship crash-landed onto the planet. The scientist was trapped in the ship with major injuries and no help on the way. His only salvation is his kitty, Kiki … wait, what?
At the start of the demo, the scientist implores Kiki to find a power suit to rescue him. Is he talking to a cat? Yes, he is because he has no other options. Plus, Kiki seemingly understands him, and she starts to explore the alien planet.
As Kiki the cat, you have the ability to crawl up walls, swim and be plain adorable. Combat is not your forte, so using your ability to avoid it is necessary. Your main goal at the outset is to find a powerful mech suit.
Once you find the power suit, the game really heats up. As Kiki in the mech suit, you lose the ability to swim or climb, but what you give up in agility you gain in pure power. Equipped with a powerful blaster, you can kill enemies in all directions. More importantly, the power suit allows you to open doors and fire missiles — once you get that upgrade, of course.
When speaking with developer Joseph Bourgeois about Gato Roboto, he described controlling Kiki as starting out as the morph ball in Metroid. Despite its very obvious Metroid leanings, Bourgeois said the three-man development team drew a lot of inspiration from Master Blaster both in its gameplay and its not-so-serious story.
Gato Roboto gives you the option to get out of the mech suit whenever you want to explore areas where the power suit can’t travel. In the demo, it was necessary to do so to gain the vital missile upgrade. There is a symbiosis between being Kiki the kitty and Kiki the murder mech.
The demo showed that the Metroidvania elements of Gato Roboto work extremely well. I opened up new areas after I gained the power suit and even more when I received the missile and spin jump upgrades. With these powerups, I was able to double back to go into previously inaccessible areas and make forward progress or find an extra health tank. The demo itself ended back where I started. Scattered along the way were save chambers with a neat Metroid flair where players can refill health and save their progress.
Before heading back to your dying owner, you have to face off against a mouse. Much like Kiki, this mouse has access to deadly technology. Defeating the Eggman-esque contraption controlled by the menacing mouse requires quick reflexes and an itchy trigger finger. Before the mouse escaped, he spoke a little, and that small tease made it even harder to wait for Gato Roboto’s release.
Domo Arigato, Gato Roboto
Part of what Doinksoft wants to do with Gato Roboto is create tricks within the gameplay to encourage skilled play and speed runs. The developer added in a rocket jump trick to help give players a way to boost themselves up. Bourgeois also told me there is a way to chain the double jump where players can stay in the air almost indefinitely. To further encourage speed runs and dissuade cheaters, the game has a timer at the bottom.
The demo for Gato Roboto was full of heady lo-fi music that, combined with its UI, longitude and latitude markers and stark black and white contrast, created an incredibly atmospheric experience. It made playing the demo feel extremely trippy. All of these sensory inputs are heightened by the wild premise and the scientist’s matter of fact blood loss induced dialogue.
While the gameplay and style of the demo was dope, it was the writing that stood out. The crisp dialogue feels not quite right and pulls you into this world. When it becomes obvious that the scientist is probably dying and everything could be a Jacob’s Ladder fever dream, you get an extra layer to the story. It’s like if the cat in Alien saved the day.
Bourgeois told me that he almost named the cat Jones, but he went with Kiki because it was the name of the cat he and his ex-girlfriend shared. Now, he gets to keep Kiki forever immortalized in a video game that shows his passion.
The Gato Roboto demo blew me away, and so did the infectious attitude from the developers at Doinksoft. You could tell this game was made by people who truly care about it and who put their soul into it.
Gato Roboto is expected to release on Nintendo Switch and PC in 2019.
tags: Doinksoft , Gato Roboto , Nintendo Switch , PAX West , preview