We may think that cats are sweet, defenseless creatures that make for great YouTube fodder and soft-purring companionship. But c’mon, they can lash out with a sharp claw when you least expect it.
So, what if all those cute-and-aww-worthy online gifs are really just distractions designed to lull us into complacency while sneaky felines slowly dominate the internet, infiltrate our homes, and take stealthy steps to … Rule the world?!
I mean, all it would take is a few high-tech, missile-launching mech suits (with paw-friendly control panels), and mankind would be toast. Well, maybe not. But the retro-platformer Gato Roboto is more than happy to mix a sweet and stalwart kitty with military-grade weaponry and throw wide the gates for catastrophic kitten combat.
The story, like this game’s black-and-white, retro-feel gaming action, is pretty straightforward, fun and appealing.
You see, there’s this strong-chinned spaceship captain named Gary who just happens to be tooling along on his normal, heroic space patrol when two unexpected things happen: First, he receives a distress signal from a nearby research space base. And second, just as he approaches the base, Gary’s sweet kitty, Kiki, just happens to jump up on the ship’s navigational keyboard at the wrong time. The craft crash-lands and traps Gary in his own badly damaged ship.
The pinned-in captain has no choice but to send Kiki the cat out to investigate in his stead. He isn’t even sure she can understand him as he communicates with her through a radio collar. But this kitty is far more savvy than Gary knows. She’s not much for conversation, but she is the right size to slip in and out of the facility’s small crawl spots and flooded rooms. She’s also smart enough to throw the right switches, jump into a robotic mech suit and navigate the harsher areas that require more protection than a coat of fur.
And here’s another plus: It just so happens that Kiki might be the purr-fect hero for the pouncing job at hand. That’s because a foreign entity has infiltrated the base—a creature that has scientifically transferred its consciousness into the body of … a rat.
Let the high-tech cat-and-mouse game begin.
Fans of this style of 2D, old-school, blast-and-leap play will tell you that Gato Roboto is a loving tip of the hat to old Metroid games of the past. Specifically, something called “Metroidvania.”
But if you don’t know your Metroid from a hole in the ground, it doesn’t matter a whit. Just know that this game is all about navigating room after room, level after level of this ever-twisting, far-reaching science facility. Meanwhile, our intrepid puss in space boots also has to avoid the facility’s myriad hazards, piecing together its secrets and besting its many foes and bosses.
There are scores and scores of frogs, jellyfish, pincer-equipped plants, and other experimental creatures that have escaped their laboratory confines. You’ll also encounter robotic hovercraft, gun turrets, living furnaces and other robo-threats. And they’re all ready to bop or blast Kiki with lasers, bombs and fireballs as she progresses.
Our fur-covered champion can climb walls in her unprotected cat form or scramble into secondary devices such as submarines and stationary cannon to take to the offense. But the main event is really the fun of moving around and upgrading Kiki’s cannon-equipped mech suit with various improvements and boosts, such as pumped-up fire power, special spin moves and barrier phase-through abilities. Then you’ll apply all that technology in a juggling match of platform jumping, attack deflections and power-suit management.
Nope, no kitty litter splats or fur-ball gags to worry over here. Kiki can be bested by fireball blasts, a nasty rat in an octosuit and other big boss zaps. But in this game’s 2D pixelated presentation, there’s no blood or goop. Our purr-worthy protagonist simply disappears when she loses a life and reappears for another try.
The gameplay isn’t too difficult for younger gamers either. Swirling lasers, streaming fireballs and scores of jumping foes can require some getting used to. And timing your platform- and wall-hopping leaps can sometimes be tricky. But most kids will take to it like a kitten to a scratching post.
For the most part, Gato Roboto is fairly problem free. There is some question late in the game about what happens Gary, who is eventually captured and robotically controlled by the invading baddie. He may actually die after a battle, though that’s not completely clear. Either way, however, there’s no mess and his fate is somewhat nebulous.
All in all, Gato Roboto is an E-rated platformer that’s easy to start and stop, and one that doesn’t suck up weeks of gameplay time. It’s also downloadable and cheap. And let’s face it: The feline-in-a-mech-suit action here is just so doggone, er, cat-scratch charming.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.