Life as a half a foot tall robot is hard work as game studio Skip shows with its latest title Chibi Robo. Like Giftpia before it, Chibi Robo focuses on a unique style of gameplay being helpful. The silver star of the game is given as a gift for a little girl’s birthday. You start the game out popping out of the unwrapped present. The little guy begins to walk around the table when he sees a flower to interact with (signified by the microphone-like symbol). Pressing “A” picks up the flower, which you can hand to Jenny who will be delighted with her new toy.
After the brief intro to the Sanderson family you’re free to explore the house. Seeing the entire house from the robot’s perspective is one of the coolest parts of the game. A tiny room looks like an endless walk. Want to get on top of that table? You can’t simply climb up. You need to make use of strategically placed staircases of books and other junk. Another option is that you can climb on a dangling shoelace to reach higher ground. There are some jumping elements, but you don’t actually press a button do a controlled jump. Just tilt the control stick towards the direction and you will automatically jump towards higher ground. Chibi Robo is really designed with exploration in mind. You’re not given specific goals and there are no levels. The game lets gamers move at their own pace.
Within the time span of a day there is a lot you could be doing. Early on you’ll have limited tools, just yourself and your trusty propeller to lighten large drops. You can start by picking up trash scattered around the house. The Sandersons leave everything from crumpled pieces of paper to bottles right on the floor for you to grab. Picking up garbage increases the happiness that you bring (indicated by the heart meter on the left hand side of the screen). Early on you’ll find a brush to scrub dirty footprints left by the family’s pet and to wipe up water spills. Like picking up trash, scrubbing the floors also gets you happiness points. As you delve further in the game you’ll get a larger range of tools allowing you to garden, water plants and even shoot nanobugs infesting the house. The more you explore the more tools you find and the more helpful the little guy will become.
What really limits how much you can do is your battery. The number in the right hand corner diminishes with every action, even standing still will drain the battery slowly. Players will have to recharge by plugging themselves into a wall outlet. Some actions like walking take only a little bit of your battery, while vigorous scrubbing of the patio floor is going to drain it faster. There is a bright side to doing random chores because higher happiness yields a longer battery life, allowing players to explore further without having to worry about recharging.
Doing chores is surprisingly fun, but there is more to the game than that. Chibi Robo has a charming set of characters that will play with you and sometimes request your help. We’ve already mentioned the family that has a Mama, Papa, dog and the daughter Jenny who thinks she’s a frog. During the day you can converse with the mother and listen to her tales or give Jenny frog rings that are scattered around the house to make them happy. At night the world takes a different approach, inanimate toys become alive when the family is sleeping. The dog’s chew toy is found writing in her journal and the robotic detective Giccoman is walking around in search of clues. By talking to these characters and bringing them items you can progress the game’s story. For instance the stuffed animal chew toy idolizes the detective who won’t give her the time of day. You can bring some happiness to her by transforming into the robotic hero with a Giccoman costume. Doing this moves her out of the way and the little robot can explore a new area.
Costumes are another aspect of gameplay. Early on you’ll get the Giccoman costume, that changes the robot from a tin can look into the famous robot. Later on you’ll find a frog costume that puts the robot into a green frog’s outfit. When you’re inside each of these costumes the family and all of the other characters will talk to you differently. This leads to event triggering and possible happiness points. Costumes also come with special abilities, that you can do by pressing the Z button. Giccoman’s costume allows the silver dude to do a power rangers inspired victory pose. The frog costume lets the robot perform a rain dance if he’s around other frogs. These special skills donned by each costume have their place in helping the little guy open up more areas.
Chibi Robo’s greatest presentation achievement is the style of the game. Generally cute and charming Chibi Robo appeals to almost anyone right away. The cast of characters including Jenny, a wooden pirate and an older non functioning helper robot are awesome. The graphics in the game aren’t technically phenomenal. While the environments are wide and contain lots of things to play with it doesn’t have the same polish as other Gamecube titles. On the other hand the sense of scale is superb, which really places players into the shoes of a tiny robot. The game is sparse on music and sound. Characters don’t talk, instead they make gibberish sounds like in the Sims or Animal Crossing. There is some background music, which is gentle and almost unnoticeable. The main sounds you’ll be paying attention to are the ones made by you when you perform chores. Each step the robot makes also produces a sound that goes up or down in scale depending on the surface. Picking up trash yields a little chime and scrubbing the floor plays a melody. When heard all together the robot makes a micro symphony everywhere he goes.
Out of the large category of Gamecube titles Chibi Robo stands out as one of the most original. From concept to gameplay there is nothing else like Chibi Robo out there. Even though with so much thought put into the game, it only lasts for ten or so hours if you’re playing through the story. Beyond that there’s always trash to pick up, but who wants to do that forever? Chibi Robo is something that gamers should really pick up and try out. It will hook most gamers with a few minutes of play, making it universally enjoyable.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 3/5
The gameplay itself is easy enough to understand. However, when you’re going item hunting you will need to understand some Japanese to figure out what items to give to what character. Why did the game get a five then? Well if you have Freeloader the game won’t display any text at all. Instead you’ll have a bunch of random symbols floating around, which makes the game really difficult to play through.
Nintendo of America says they’re going to publish this game in the US later this year.
+ Pros: Creative and charming Chibi Robo easily wins people over.
– Cons: After the story is over many people won’t stick around to hunt for collectables.
Overall: Chibi Robo is one of the most unique titles out there. Overall entertaining with a cute story even though it’s a short run through.
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