A space pilot named Gary crash-lands on a small planet, gets stuck in his ship, and sends his cat (who caused the crash in the first place) on a retro platforming adventure to find help. A real cat would lick itself and fall asleep, but this is no real cat. This is Gato Roboto, monochrome cat Metroid. Catroid, if you will.
I’d call it a Metroidvania, but the influence in this new Switch and PC release from Doinksoft is clear. There is no ‘Vania’, no wandering draculas. Just a cat doing the best Samus Aran impression she can.
Kiki the Kitty explores an abandoned research facility that’s crawling with hostile enemy life. Shortly after her adventure begins, she finds a powerful mech suit that fits her perfectly, because of course it does.
Guided by grounded Gary via a comm device, Kiki the cat mech collects weapons and suit upgrades, many of which allow her to explore deeper into the facility. Missiles blow away rocks, removing early barriers. The suit’s dash upgrade lets Kiki warp through falling lava.
It’s standard Metroid operating procedure, only instead of a woman in a suit of high-tech armor, it’s a kitty. “Instead of X, it’s a kitty” is always a good idea, no matter how you solve for X. Twinkies, only instead of creme, it’s a kitty. Nuclear bombs, only instead of plutonium, it’s a kitty. See?
The game’s cute sense of humor helps, as does the fact that this particular cat is fine with swimming and can pilot a submarine should the need arise. Had Gato Roboto simply been a game about watching a cat take a nap in the leg of a mech suit, there would still be value.
But no, this is a capable little 2D platform shooter. The controls are tight and responsive, perfect for precision platforming over lakes of lava. The monochrome graphics are simple but endearing in a Game Boy sort of way. Boss fights, which generally involve a rat, are pattern-based affairs, asking more patience of players than skill, which I like. It’s on the short side, with a full playthrough taking only three and a half hours or so.
I find Gato Roboto as utterly charming as it is completely unrealistic. I own five cats, and not a single one would even pee on me to put me out if I were on fire. In the real world, Gary would be a dead man with several kitty-sized bites taken out of his corpse. Thank you very much, Gato Roboto.