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• Chibi-Robo!

developed by Skip/published by Nintendo/2006.02.07
1 Player/1 disc/Nintendo Gamecube/Nintendo Wii (New Play Control)

Skip’s first Gamecube game, Giftpia, never made it across the Pacific despite the intense interest of curious gamers starved of RPGs.  Luckily, Chibi-Robo didn’t suffer the same fate.

Chibi-Robo plugs in to recharge
Chibi-Robo recharging

Chibi-Robo shrinks players down to the small size of its titular star, a tiny robot built only to make people happy.  Like Mr. Mosquito, Pikmin, Katamari Damacy, and The Minish Cap, Chibi-Robo places a large emphasis on exploring the world from a worm’s eye view.  The entire game takes place in and around the household of the Sanderson family.

Fundamentals

Exploring their humble abode is no simple task if you’re 10cm tall, not to mention Chibi Robo’s limited power capacity, which always threatens to run out.  Being a robot, Chibi won’t die – but running out of power (which drains in different amounts depending on the actions he performs) is about as close to death as he’ll get.  Luckily Chibi can plug himself in to wall outlets to recharge, which he’ll do quite often in the beginning.

There’s also a day / night cycle, with either portion of the day divided into 5, 10, or 15 minute chunks.  The longer you set the timer, the more you can accomplish.  At night, when the Sandersons are sleeping, the toys spring to life (ala Toy Story) and Chibi will have to make them happy, too.

Jenny really loves frogs...

Jenny really loves frogs...

Gameplay

As Chibi explores his surroundings (often through clever puzzle-platforming) picking up trash and scrubbing away messes left by his human owners, he acquires Happy Points and Moolah.  The happier he makes the people, animals, and toys, the closer he gets to becoming the #1 Chibi Robo in the world, which is the underlying goal of the game, and each step of the way nets him increased battery life.

Cleaning up soon takes a back seat to meeting the strange inhabitants of the home, each of whom has a unique personality, dreams, crushes, and problems.  These storylines are sometimes brief episodes, while others span the entire length of the game (including after the credits have rolled).  Moolah earned or collected can be spent on items or tools that will expand Chibi’s arsenal, and costumes give him special abilities (like understanding animals or skipping to the next day).

Mrs. Sanderson taking a much-needed coffee break

Mrs. Sanderson taking a much-needed coffee break

Conclusion

Chibi-Robo is especially refreshing in that there is virtually no violence or enemies in the game.  Spydorz (robotic spiders that attack from time to time) are easily dealt with, and leave behind scrap metal which can be recycled into ladders, bridges, and warps; useful tools for exploring the world.  The only real suspense comes when your battery life is running low, or when you’re in the middle of a complex platforming task and the day or night is about to end.  The importance of this point cannot be stressed enough in today’s market of videogames which rely too much on violent conflict resolution.

Chibi-Robo is a thoroughly polished adventure game with a laid back, stress-free style, broken up by enjoyable bouts of platforming, action, and mini games.  The endearing characters (including the family dog’s love-stricken chew toy), the many trials and tribulations they set upon you, and the stories that play out as a result of your actions, are fun and rewarding to watch unfold.  The game has a very open-ended style that reminded me of the many intertwining character stories in Zelda: Majora’s Mask.  All in all Chibi-Robo is a very unique game lasting between 15-20 hours that shouldn’t be missed.

Quick Run-Down

PROS:

  • Funny characters and situations
  • Excellent sound design
  • Bold and colorful graphics
  • Strong sense of scale
  • Fresh premise

CONS:

  • Chibi’s limited power supply is annoying especially at first
  • Dodgy collision detection in some spots can be frustrating
  • Character voices (gibberish) might get on your nerves
  • With so many characters and events, keeping track can be difficult
  • Back-tracking to distant locations can be tiresome

chibi-003

One Sentence Review: A cute, unique adventure game with a strong emphasis on exploration and character interaction that most anyone will find enjoyable.

One Word Review: Delightful!

Chibi-Robo! (official website)

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