Review by Jurnco

"4 Inches Tall and a Heart as Big as Texas"

Cleaning isn't fun. There's nothing quite as mundane as scrubbing stains off the floor or picking up carelessly discarded trash. The prospect of paying money for the opportunity to clean is ludicrous, but that's exactly what you're doing when handing over cash for a copy of Chibi Robo. Through some miracle, developer Skip has crafted this virtual cleaning game into an epic adventure of gargantuan proportions.

Chibi Robo is a tiny cleaning robot designed to aid its owner by cleaning everything in sight. In the beginning, the little robot can only go about this by manually picking up trash and throwing it away, but eventually he'll gain access to a wide array of unique tools such as a toothbrush for scrubbing stains. As Chibi Robo sets about his cleaning tasks, the Sandersons will reward him with happy points. Happy points will eventually earn a larger battery capacity. Given Chibi's initial pathetic battery life, it's a good idea to spend some time cleaning in order to earn those upgrades. The battery system makes sense, what with Chibi being a robot, but that doesn't mean it's good. It's frustrating to have to constantly seek out power outlets as the meter slowly diminishes. Running out of juice is about the only danger present for Chibi. The only other threat is the sporadic appearance of Spdorz. Spydorz are small renegade robots bent on destroying Chibi. Unfortunately, these enemies are a real pushover, and can easily be wiped out in a matter of seconds. When Spydorz are destroyed they drop scrap metal that can be used to build bridges, ladders, and teleports which are necessary to reach certain areas.

There is adventure to be had beyond general house keeping, and in fact cleaning isn't actually required to continue with the story, it just really helps out. As Chibi becomes more involved with his owners, it becomes apparent that the real goal is to help patch up their dysfunctional family relations. This is accomplished by completing a series of inter-related tasks involving errands for the Sandersons and other toys in the house. The beauty of Chibi Robo is the freedom to do anything you want. It's an excellent example of nonlinear gameplay; allowing you to pursue numerous side quests, hone in on the main adventure, or just clean all day. The main adventure seamlessly blends with the side quests, sometimes depending on each other though not requiring full completion of certain tasks. Chibi Robo works on a day/night system in which approximately fifteen minutes are allotted for each part. Different events take place during day than do night. For instance, night is the only time that toys will come to life in the living room and kitchen. It's a neat idea, but the differences aren't significant enough to make the addition noteworthy. There is quite a bit to do in Chibi Robo, the main quest alone clocks in at roughly fifteen hours. A lot of time can be spent just exploring the environment.

Exploring the house is actually the most fascinating aspect of Chibi Robo. The developers have managed to create a feeling of great insignificance that really pulls you down to Chibi's perspective. A small house suddenly becomes a vast plain with enormous cliffs and obstacles. A couch is a mountain to a four-inch tall robot, and the sink drain becomes a wet, twisting maze. The house only consists of a few rooms, but when you're a miniature robot, that makes for a huge environment. The only downside to having such a vast world to explore is that Chibi is not a very fast robot. The game teases with the option to save up and buy a car, but the car can't actually be driven around the house, it's merely a mini-game.

Chibi's exploration will see him meeting a colorful cast of toys. Being a Nintendo game, the toys have a tendency to talk too much, which sort of isolates the younger audience they were shooting for. Each character has a unique voice sample similar to setups seen in the Banjo Kazooie games in which the speech is just a loop of nonsensical speaking. This is functional, but voice acting would have been far more appropriate for a game geared for children. The music in Chibi Robo is surprising catchy, even though most of the songs are only a thirty-second loop.

Much like the musical themes in Chibi Robo, the visuals are very Japan-centric. The game sports a unique graphical style that feels like cel-shading, but is slightly crisper and more defined. Colors are vibrant, and the character models have an intriguing design. The animation, while usually overly dramatic, is very smooth and entertaining, and the cut-scenes look excellent running in real time. Chibi Robo isn't a system pusher, but it still looks very clean and refreshing, especially considering that the game has been out in Japan for so long.

Closing Comments
Chibi Robo is an excellent game that is appealing to a wide range of players. It's simple and inviting enough for young children, but deep and engaging enough for older audiences. The game has a lot to offer with its numerous side quests, and the main adventure alone is fairly lengthy. All in all, Chibi Robo is a very impressive game that shouldn't be overlooked.

Points
+ Nonlinear gameplay
+ Side quests
+ Huge environments
-- No real threats
-- Battery life
-- Too much text

Score: 9.0


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/23/07, Updated 12/18/07

Game Release: Chibi-Robo! (US, 02/06/06)


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