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.
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
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..
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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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