It’s been quiet round here I know, but believe it or not I have actually been playing games. Three games, no less. Though one of them is Overwatch so that barely counts and the other I just started last Friday, but the OTHER game I have been playing, I have also finished. Please, no applause just now.
What’s Really Wrong With Me
Increasingly, my favourite genre of game is Play As A Cat. Kojima can keep his ‘Strand Game’. Cage can keep his ‘Alarming, Morally Bankrupt Visual Exploration of What’s Really Wrong With Me Game’. All I want to do is play as cats. Why aren’t there more games where you play as cats. I mean sure the cat I have the fondest memories of used to just sit an inch away from the sofa chair leg and stare at it, but some cats do interesting things. Their lithe and acrobatic athleticism that allows them to slink into even the most foolish of places for a cat to be. Their paws they use to clumsily bat away balled up receipts or delicate pottery or people’s faces. Their seemingly endless capacity for derision and hunger. All great potential game mechanics probably somehow.
Yes, all I want to do is play as cats, and the latest folk to make that soaring dream a euphoric reality are the delightfully named doinksoft, with the quite irritatingly named Gato Roboto.
Gah-tow? Gae-to? RobOHto? Robot-Oh? Who knows how you’re supposed to say it. If you’re looking for intelligent and instinctive cultural knowledge and analysis you’ve already worked out you’ve come to the wrong place, most likely four seconds ago when you read my paragraph about playing as a cat. Regardless of how you utter its name, Gato Roboto is a fine addition to the Switch’s ever increasing line-up of unfeasibly addictive indie video games.
Published by the Do-No-Wrong crew at Devolver and available at last count for a scintillating Seven Pounds and Nineteen (?) Pence, Gato Roboto takes all the fun of a Metroidvania and playing as a cat, and throws in a few badass mechs, alongside a silly narrative and a stunningly intricate, nostalgic art style.
Your kitty can, and most definitely should, leap inside the first land mech it finds, or a submarine mech, or even a mounted gun erm, mech, in order to traverse and survive the game’s sumptuous spread of 8-bit levels. It’s this little mechanic which gives GR just the right amount of flavourful seasoning. You can choose to jump out of your mech, usually a requirement if you want to crawl into a small space or climb a steep wall, but you’ll be very susceptible to being insta-deathed or drowning or melting. In my play through, I found something completely enthralling about climbing out of the mech and leaping around as the cat, not least due to those beautiful little animations. Jumping in and out of your vehicles and the varying nuances of each state certainly add an impressive dynamic curve to a fun and fast-paced gameplay loop.
As you advance you’ll unlock extra moves for your mechs. This comes in the form of rockets alongside your standard plink-plonker, and a fun phase jump that allows you to instantly zip a few feet to your left or right. There’s nothing ground-breaking or game-changing in the little updates you’re given, until you realise, in true Metroidvania style, just how imperative one is in overcoming a certain boss.
you, a cat
The narrative sees you, a cat, crash land on an alien planet, and through the radio-instruction of your owner, explore the land, discover what you need to do to save him from his spaceship tomb. It’s not The Holy Grail, thank God, but it’s amusing and well-written enough to pull you on through, and plucks on those nostalgia strings in its execution.
Visually in fact, Gato Roboto is wall to wall nostalgia. Nostalgia splattered right up the walls. Its deft and keenly animated art style will send those of a certain age thundering back to happier times, probably. It even offers collectable items that gift you alternative colourways, dousing the levels in a Gameboy-ish green/black hue in one, or an LCD style browny-orange in another.
wearing on your b
A single, mildly spiced frustration that snagged at me a few times came in the form of the unskippable dialogue before a big boss fight. Chiefly because my wild ineptitude means I have to die roughly five hundred and forty seven times before I figure out what the hell is going on, and with each death, the intro sequence must play out almost in full. When you want to just get straight back into the action it can be a little wearing on your b button.
That though, is a minor complaint about yet another indie Switch release that is entirely deserved of your time and attention, due to its fast-paced action, its beautiful animation and art style and most importantly of all, because you play as a cat.