Review by midwinter

"It's True! Size Isn't Everything"

Your Gamecube is dying, but Chibi Robo wants to make you happy. The world is falling apart and your partner doesn't love you anymore, but Chibi Robo wants to make your happy. Your daughter thinks she's a frog and you have to sleep on the couch, but Chibi Robo still wants to make you happy. He doesn't care what you've done or who you've screwed, this little robot will turn that frown upside down, even if it means picking up some trash, and reporting your every move to the Mrs. Come day or night, rain or shine, through robotic spiders both thick and thin, Chibi Robo's watching your back and spreading the love for all to enjoy...

chibi (adj)
1. To be small in statue or form
2. A sometimes derogatory Japanese adjective used to describe anything smaller than the norm eg. chibi-ko (an annoyingly small girl)


No matter which way you look at it, Chibi Robo is the quintessential Nintendo game. Developed by Skip (last seen plugging quirky RPG, Giftpia) and saved from development hell by Shigeru Miyamoto, this charmingly innocent tale is the latest reworking of the classic, pint sized hero formula. At a mere 3 inches in height, Chibi Robo's diminutive form ensures the domestic environments around him feel like potential death traps in the making, with tables, chairs, and a staircase being insurmountable obstacles to overcome. A dangling shoe string might provide players with a means for reaching higher ground, but it's also a long way down should they slip and fall. Meanwhile, the more adventurous might view the kitchen sink as a challenge, its untold dangers being too great to ignore.

With so much then to see and do, it's good to know that Chibi Robo has taken on an almost, languid sort of pace, allowing for an open ended style of play not too far removed from Rockstar's own, Grand Theft Auto. Players are free to do what they want, when they want, returning to the game's plot only to further the story and unlock the next room. Early on however, the biggest drawback to all this freedom is Chibi Robo's reliance on the power socket as a means of recharging his on-board batteries. Climbing, running, and using the Chibi-Copter steadily eats up his limited energy, eventually draining it altogether if you're not paying attention. And though returning to recharge every 2-3 minutes is the very definition of annoying, given time it becomes less of an issue...

That being said however, Chibi Robo isn't so much an adventure game as it is a house work simulator. The above mentioned exploration elements simply offer a means with which to inject the much needed variety as players set about earning as many happy points as possible. Whether you're cleaning up some muddy foot prints, hunting out a lost receipt, or taking on the robotic spider menace, these points serve as an indicator of how well you're actually doing. Likewise, the completion of household chores will see players earning the cash required to upgrade Chibi Robo's various abilities. Larger battery packs (thereby alleviating the game's biggest criticism early on), flower seeds, and a Low-Rider amongst others, can all be purchased whenever the need strikes.

Thankfully though, not everything useful has to be purchased, and scattered throughout the house are a number of items guaranteed to help with your daily chores. Spoons for instance, come in handy when digging out in the garden, while a syringe found in daughter, Jenny's room (the same girl currently living life as a frog) helps with resuscitating dead wild life. I kid you not. And yet as weird as all this may sound, it's Chibi Robo's abundant variety that'll keep players coming back, constantly on the hunt for the next costume, another utensil, and more hidden secrets. Does it worry me that the lack of any real difficulty prevents the game from feeling like a challenge? Not in the slightest. When there's this much to do, and fish still needing to be fed, who has the energy to put up much of a fight...

That's what I thought too...

At any rate, as players go about their day-to-day life, Chibi Robo's visual polish is sure to leave a lasting impression. Some pleasing, cartoon-esque graphics provide the background ambiance, helping to establish a sense of warmth and character most games generally lack. From the endearing, yet idiotic facial expressions, to the little details found when ferreting out a new corner of the house, players can expect great things. Similarly, the sound effects do a wonderful job of building on the overall tone with a distinct, almost Looney Tunes flavor. Foot falls elicit little pings of noise, building in momentum as Chibi Robo runs, flies, and climbs his way through the house. Every action you perform, every pratfall you suffer, has been perfectly realized with a similar, tongue-in-cheek detail, something that's sure to force a smile whether you want it or not.

But yeah, why not enjoy the good times? Gamecube owners have had slim pickings of late, and Chibi Robo has what it takes to turn those blues around. Its lack of a real, definable challenge hasn't hurt the game any, being tempered by an incredible variety of things to do, and a story that (for this reviewer at least) hits home on a somewhat personal level. Ultimately however, there aren't too many complaints I could throw at Chibi Robo without doing the game a disservice. Yes, the third person camera becomes stuck on the rare occasion, but such annoyances seem trivial compared to some awesome controls and great, visual humor. If you're looking for something to stick in your Gamecube this Christmas, Chibi Robo has what it takes to keep you gaming well on into the new year. Take your time, enjoy the sights, and you'll have found a new friend worthy of your hard earned dollars. After all, Chibi Robo only wants to make you happy...

Pros
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* The Gamecube finally gets something worth playing that doesn't involve Mario or sports
* Gameplay is relaxed and suitably languid
* Open ended play allows players to do their own thing
* The platforming elements are cleverly designed
* Nice, highly responsive controls
* Upgrading Chibi Robo keeps the action fresh and enjoyable
* Even picking up trash can seem like fun
* Great cartoon-esque visuals
* Cute sound effects establish an almost, Looney Tunes quality
* There's considerable meat on these bones
* With this much heart, it's hard not to love the game

Cons
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* Chibi Robo is exceptionally slow to get started
* The surprisingly solid camera gets stuck occasionally
* It's really not that difficult


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/24/05


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