Review: Chibi Robo
Posted 16 Jul 2006 at 15:16 by Sam
And so it begins. Yes it's that time of year again, the infamous summer gaming drought. A time that is well known and loathed by gamers, a time when all those AAA releases seem so far away and a time when all is thought to be lost as we succumb to the heat of this truly harsh reality. But wait, for there is a tiny glimmer of hope in the distance! And as it draws nearer it takes on the form of a tiny ten centimeter tall robot carrying a bucket full of brilliance to quench our gaming thirsts.
Chibi-Robo initially comes across as a relatively unassuming title; you take control of a four inch high robot that exists inside a family's home performing various chores and solving problems in order to earn their love, respect and cash. Sounds quite simplistic? Well on one level it is, but, let's start from the beginning in a bit more detail.
The Sanderson family purchases our half-pint sized hero to help keep the house in order; thus your tasks as the titular robot largely include cleaning and cooking, exciting no? As you progress deeper through the game and venture deeper into the Sanderson household you will discover that there are greater problems that take a little bit more than merely scrubbing furiously with a toothbrush to solve.
Not to say that the cleaning isn't important though; indeed the cleaning remains integral to the game play throughout. By cleaning and carrying out various menial tasks, you earn both "happy points" and cash in direct relation to how many chores you perform. Cleaning is a simple and strangely enjoyable process, which, when you have the correct tool, basically involves positioning Chibi over a stain and pressing "A" repeatedly until an on screen indication informs you of your completion of the task by adding points to your total. And who said that cleaning isn't fun?
Structurally the game shares similarities with Nintendo's alternative RTS Pikmin; for one thing, the game is broken down into days, there is no limit as to how long it takes you to reach the end. Saying that though, each day lasts around 20 – 30 minutes which is broken down into both day and night which affects the games events accordingly.
Other notable similarities or nods to the aforementioned Pikmin (aside from the obvious height comparison between Olimar & Chibi) includes a place where you retire to at the end / beginning of each day and night cycle which is called the "Chibi-House" (which looks more like a spaceship on both the inside and out). Once inside, this place acts as a useful port of call for progressing as it contains a "Chibi PC" which allows you to purchase upgrades and new costumes as well as being able to process scrap metal into useful items to aid your progress.
The miniature "house" is also used to store certain major items which you collect at specific points; more interestingly your domicile is shared by a talking mobile monitor cunningly called "Telly-Vision" who is your companion of sorts from the start of the game. Throughout your adventure Telly will inform you of various pieces of information which may be of use to you in certain situations, he also has tendencies to disappear at the first sign of trouble and turn up when you might not need him, however, he does have his various informative uses as well as providing some humorous insights at certain points.
At first glance the game might seem rather small as you start out limited to the lounge; as you explore during the daylight hours of the first day you will most likely come into contact with two members of the Sanderson household Jenny (daughter of Mr and Mrs Sanderson) and Jenny's Dad. They might appear semi-normal at first glance but just your first short conversations with them is enough to convince you otherwise as it becomes apparent that this is quite the dysfunctional household.
Interestingly Chibi doesn't actually talk but he responds to direct questions by using "Yes & No" signs that pop out of the top of his metal dome when you select either respective option. Aside from the cleaning stains and picking up trash which you learn quite early on, you will learn one of the games most crucial traits, how to recharge your batteries! It's a simple enough process really as you just plug Chibi into the nearest outlet when your battery meter gets low as it depletes with each musical step that he makes.
Recharging might seem like quite a large restriction at first but it makes sense the more that you play. The process only takes a matter of seconds and you are asked if you want to save your progress after each recharge, this becomes more crucial in later parts of the game where you will find yourself balancing how much you can reasonably achieve in one in-game day and how often you need to keep the juice in your batteries ticking over.
While you will find enough to do in the daytime it's when night falls and the family members are sleeping that the game really comes into its own. Toys that were once motionless come to life and carry with them some slightly eccentric personalities such as Drake Redcrest the plastic evil- vanquishing robot who patrols the living room and Sophie, who's basically a caterpillar shaped dog chew toy.
You will encounter other animate allies throughout your housebound escapade that will help you in various ways, usually after you have helped them out but that's what the game is largely about, give and take, which makes it all the more rewarding. There is also a great deal of exploration to this title which is to its credit as there is always something to do and barely a dull moment.
It should be noted that due to this games great design it has a lot of scope and imagination, as you look around in switch able first person view, you will notice various areas in each room that may seem far off, but, as a general rule, if you can see it, you can get to it. Indeed the only thing that stops you from reaching these areas initially is your limited inventory but as this inventory grows you will be able to access uncharted territory from the most seemingly inaccessible shelf to the precarious and somewhat dizzying heights of overhanging ceiling beams.
Speaking of beams, one of Chibi's more versatile attachments is a beam of the projectile variety. This weapon replaces the robots right arm and has many uses including activating switches, breaking certain objects and annihilating enemies which randomly appear; also noteworthy is that while you can run and gun in third person you can also shoot in first person on the spot and even charge the weapon up for a more powerful ranged shot in an eerily similar yet somewhat simplistic Metroid Prime style.
Puzzles, mini-games and even sub-quests of sorts feature in collective abundance throughout this uniquely charming and ultimately quite compelling title. It helps to break up the seemingly endless mass of cleaning and other household chores which are already in themselves enjoyable.
There are so many brilliant moments in this truly captivating title it's impossible to single them out as everyone who plays this game will find something to love about it. He makes cleaning fun, cooking hilarious and even finds the time to eradicate evil and diffuse emotional turmoil. It's all in a days work for Chibi-Robo!
N-Europe Final Verdict
A small robot with a big personality, Chibi-Robo breaks away from convention and successfully creates an absorbing experience which is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.
Lots to do
Manages to make cleaning fun
Over too quickly
A few repetitive voiceovers
Graphics aren't too great