Metroidvanias are an inherently clever genre, and the cleverness can sometimes sap a little of the energy. I’ve played plenty of Metroidvanias that were very easy to admire but a bit of a drag to play. It can be slightly enervating, being blinded by all that brilliance. I can appreciate how ingenious it is that a certain area works differently depending on whether it’s on fire or filled with toxic gas, but it can take something truly special to shake me out of quiet reverence for someone’s design smarts.
Gato Roboto does two things that immediately shook the formula up for me. And tellingly, neither of them has much to do with nuts and bolts design. The first thing is you play through the game as a cat, crashlanded on an alien planet and trying to save his human owner who’s trapped back at the spaceship. The cat soon has a mech-suit – I can attest to the fact that cats are like this – and the game has a lot of fun switching between sections where you’re suited and tooled up and deadly and bulky, and sections where you jump out of the suit and scamper up walls and through pipes and underwater, but have to avoid direct confrontation.
Yes, I appreciate in this way the cat has quite a lot to do with nuts and bolts design, but none of that matters, I think, quite as much as this: it’s unexpected and delightful to play as a cat in a game, particularly one who’s animated with such character and economy.
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