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- Gato Roboto
If it looks like a cat and walks like a cat but also walks in a mech, it might be Gato Roboto. This upcoming “CatMechtroidvania” game that was announced at PAX West looks like a Game Boy game but has the trappings of, well, an NES game. It’s unabashedly an homage to the original Metroid as it has the same style of ability progression and similar level layouts. But, based on the demo I played, it has a charming style and solid controls that bring it above the simple “Catroid” it will probably be lazily referred to as.
As its title implies, Gato Roboto is about a cat and its mech that work together as a unit but also separately. The cat can climb up walls, jump in water, and take over other vehicles in the game but dies in one hit and cannot attack. The mech, once piloted by the cat, can shoot missiles and bullets but can’t fit into small spaces, poop just outside of the litter box, and knock all the things off your dining room table. Think of this like D.Va from Overwatch but, in this case, the mechless D.Va has a few more tricks up her sleeve. And that she’s also a cat and not South Korea’s Dorito-eating savior.
Being a Metroid-like game, my demo gave me the chance to grab different powerups for the mech like a double jump and missile attack. Both opened up new parts of the world and played differently enough to create an interesting dynamic since I was constantly switching between the cat and mech to access different areas. It didn’t feel like a bold take on the genre like Dead Cells or Hollow Knight. But having two different playable characters in one, combined with the game’s charming sense of humor, gave the game its own spin on top of its solid, simple controls.
Gato Roboto Preview: Three Doinkers
Although the game didn’t always have this dichotomy. Gato Roboto is being developed by a three-man team – a collective lovingly called Doinksoft – and each has contributed to the game and changed how it worked. Creator Britt Brady started Gato Roboto during Christmas break to learn how to program until he realized couldn’t fully program it. He then approached programmer and self-proclaimed “wild card” Joseph Bourgeois to flesh it out. A few months later, they recruited a former collaborator, level designer, and programmer Cullen Dwyer to round out the team and “make everything better.” Thus, Doinksoft was born.
“We fill in each other’s holes very well,” said Bourgeois, smirking at his double entendre and genuinely warm, team-oriented comment.
Bourgeois was actually the person who came up with cat and mech dynamic. Originally, the game had a cat in a mech but not a cat and a mech. There was an animation of the four-legged furry bastard getting into the robotic suit, which made Bourgeois think of the NES game, Blaster Master, which had both tank and on-foot sections. This, to them, made the game a lot better but they were unsure on how much better.
“It became, suddenly, twice as good. Or maybe four times as good,” said Bourgeois.
“I’d say easily six to seven times as good,” Dwyer chimed in.
Gato Roboto Preview: All Black (and White) Everything
The game’s art also improved over time. Brady, in his quest to learn how to program, originally used one-bit art to make a rough game. He then realized that it was pretty good by his standards and redid all the art to the monochromatic pixel art you see today. But, again, Dwyer and Bourgeois had a rough time nailing down exactly how much better the art got after its redesign.
“He made it like eight or 20 times as good,” said Dwyer. “It’s about 42 times as good now… Is this joke wearing out? Are people going to actually hear these jokes?”
Their humor bleeds into the writing of the game. It’s brief but cute and didn’t seem to rely on the “meme-y” nature that game might imply. It is about cats, after all, and the pull to dive into the internet’s dumbest, most low-level “jokes” must be quite alluring.
Gato Roboto Preview: Switch Kitten
Like many of the smaller games at PAX West, Gato Roboto is coming to the PC and Switch some time in early 2019. The Switch seemed like a particular hotspot for these types of games at the show and Cullen explained the simple reason why the studio gravitated towards Nintendo’s popular console.
“I just want it on Switch,” he said. “I love Switch. I want to play it in the bedroom, living room, in the bath, and on the toilet. I want to play it while smoking a cigarette and drinking a forty. I want to be at the bar and be like ‘All these people are boring. I want to play my own game instead.’”
I enjoyed my 15 minutes with the game because of its style, simple controls, two gameplay styles, and Metroid-esque structure. It may not end up being some drastic overhaul of the classic formula and it doesn’t need to be in order to be a pleasant game. However, my words are meaningless when compared to what one of gaming’s most famous figures said about the game in a completely real quote that was not embellished or fabricated in a PAX stupor.
“Shigeru Miyamoto himself said ‘I love this. This is the best game. Everybody should buy it.’” said Cullen as seriously as he could before the other third of Doinksoft added his two cents.
“That’s a quote. Take it to the bank,” added Bourgeois before bursting out into laughter.