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Platform

GameCube

 

Genre

Action / Puzzle

 

Publisher

Nintendo

 

Developer

Nintendo

 

ESRB

E +10 (Everyone)

 

Released

February 6, 2006

 

 

- Lots of subquests and hidden areas to explore

- Incredibly charming characters and settings

- Superb sound design

 

 

- Camera issues

- Unskippable text

- First hour or so is pretty tedious

 

 

Review: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GC)

Review: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (GC)

Review: StarFox Adventures (GC)

 

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Chibi-Robo

Score: 8.4 / 10

 

Chibi-Robo is all about making people happy. Thatís really something unique in a world where most video games revolve around conflict and violence. Nintendoís tale of a tiny robot and his family is one of the most amusing adventures theyíve put out in awhile, especially since itís far from your standard fare.

 

chibi-robo review          chibi-robo review

 

The celebration kicks off when Chibi-Robo is welcomed into the Sanderson family. Chibi-Robo is a tiny little bot designed to help around the house and generally make people smile. He trots along with an electrical cord sticking out of his back, which he uses to recharge. Heís adorable, and the Sandersons love him. Alas, while they may seem like a happy bunch on the surface, theyíre got their fair share of problems. Mr. Sanderson is a jobless oaf who spends money on toys he canít afford. Their daughter, Jenny, has some kind of disorder where she believes sheís  a frog. Mrs. Sanderson is understandably stressed by both of them, and the whole clan has been having a bit of trouble keeping up with the bills. As the titular tiny robot, your eventual goal is to set everything right with the Sanderson Family..

 

In the beginning, your goals are fairly simple. Chibiís battery doesnít last for very long, so you need to keep close to an electrical outlet to charge him up, lest you collapse in the middle of your adventure. You begin your duties by picking up little bits of garbage or cleaning up dirt on the ground, which earns you Happy Points. When you obtain enough of these, eventually youíll get your battery upgraded, which allows further exploration. Although the Sandersonís house isnít particularly big, itís gigantic from the standpoint of Chibi-Robo, and you need to use your wits to figure out how to scale the bookshelves, dressers, chairs, and other bits of furniture. Thereís a day/night cycle, which initially lasts five real-time minutes, but can be expanded to fifteen if you like.

 

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As you explore the house, youíre introduced to other toys, who take on a life of their own when the humans arenít around. One is a superhero who patrols the area. Another is a pirate in search of his buried ship. Another is a mummy thatís too shy to talk to one of the princess dolls. Each of them has their own subquests, some of which can get pretty long, but all of them are rewarding. In addition to the amusing characters, there are plenty of other things to see and do. Youíll stumble upon a slew of strange doors that hide stashes of 

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money. There are several suits at Chibi can wear, each with some amusing effects, or you can collect stickers or plant seeds in one of the few gardens. Thereís a whole lot to see and do, despite the game taking place in a relatively small world. The main storyline isnít technically very long, but thereís so many extra activities that make up for the short length.

 

Structurally, Chibi-Robo is very close to The Legend ofZelda, in that you slowly gain more skills to access new areas, although the house is a bit more open ended.  The exploration elements feels like a platformer, itís a little bit odd that thereís no jump button - instead, you can glide short distances with a helicopter head. It can get a bit frustrating when Chibi isnít able to climb up small distances, and the fussy camera certainly doesnít help these segments.  There are also a few instances where youíll need to fight devious Spiderbots, which is made rather clunky due to the lack of a targeting system, but these fights are pretty rare.

 

Chibi-Robo is a charming little fellow in his own right, and a lot of this is due to the excellent sound design. Every action is accompanied by a sound effect - trotting across the carpet will produce piano notes, while running across tile sounds like a xylophone. The music is a quirky mixture of easy listening tunes, but theyíll all memorable. None of the characters are really voiced, but speak in a cartoony gibberish similar to Animal Crossing. Chibi canít talk at all, for he lacks a mouth, but his vacant stare is oddly endearing, especially as he looks straight out of the television and blinks. Overall, the graphics are relatively simplistic, the scale and design of the household is fairly impressive. The tone is very similar to some of the Pixar films - Toy Story and Monsters Inc, in particular - so if youíre a fan of any of their movies, youíll undoubtedly love this little world.

 

chibi-robo review          chibi-robo review

 

But what really makes Chibi-Robo so impressive is the way that it subtly tugs at your emotions. Early in the game, you discover your predecessor - a gigantic Giga Robo who lies discarded and disabled in the basement, lying useless where once he was the center of the family. It lets out occasional cries of desperation that echo throughout the house, and it becomes a genuine effort to bring it back to life.  But the seriousness of the central conflict really hits you when you discover Jenny crying outside her motherís door at night. During the day, she smiles and happily doodles in the living room, but sheís much more disturbed underneath. She talks through her teddy bear, who expresses her desire for her parents to stop their fighting and get back together. Itís never heavy-handed in that after-school special kind of way, and itís certainly unique, considering there arenít too many games focused on rebuilding a marriage.

 

The only real issues with Chibi-Robo are in the introductory phases of the game - collecting bits of garbage is awfully tedious, and thereís a whole lot of extraneous dialogue that canít be skipped. The game also holds your hand a little bit too much, especially with the guidance of your companion Telly Vision, whoís almost as annoying as Navi from Ocarina of Time. It really makes the game seem like itís targeted towards little kids, even though it can easily be enjoyed by gamers of all ages.

 

Despite its few technical faults, Chibi-Robo is a deviously charming little game, with an addicting quality that makes it hard to put down. You can plug it in for a few moments and explore, maybe just to pick up a few extra Happy Points or discover some extra cash, or explore some nook of the household that just opened up. Given the sparse number of titles for the Gamecube, Chibi-Robo is definitely worth checking out, especially as an appetizer for The Twilight Princess.

 

- Kurt Kalata

(March 3, 2006)

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