Review by UberSweet

"Comprehensive Chibi-Robo Review"

Much like all teenagers, I don't enjoy cleaning my room, going down on my knees to pickup every-little crumb of trash. Who does? Strangely, a group of videogame developers do, thus creating Chibi-Robo for the Nintendo GameCube. With it's odd gameplay mechanics, goofy visuals, and lovable and intriguing characters, it's hard to remember that you are cleaning a large house in comparison to Chibi-Robo's size. While doing so, you'll realize that there are other events going on in this house, and since the father of this family has an addiction to buying toys, there are a solid number of characters to be met and interacted with. Simply put, this is complicated fusion of gameplay mechanics and not all of them mesh well together, but Chibi-Robo turns out to be a surprisingly solid game.

The game starts you off at a birthday party for the daughter of the family, Jessica. Ever since the fighting between her parents started, she hides her sadness, only speaking in ‘Ribbitesse' (frog language). She also has a cute frog costume to along with her sorrow, thus making her parents think she's gone over ‘the deep end.' Her father, Mr. Sanderson, has a strange obsession with buying toys; he's so fixated on buying them that they're on the verge of bankruptcy. There's the mother, who is, surprisingly, the only normal character in this twisted family. Although it won't affect the score I give Chibi-Robo, the constant personification of men acting stupid is constantly irritating me; why doesn't the mother have a psychotic personality like everyone else?

Anyway, at Jessica's party, Mr. Sanderson buys her the brand new Chibi-Robo, even though it's more for him than for her, and Mrs. Sanderson is mad that he wasted their money on another useless toy. Little do they know, this tiny, insignificant robot will make this family come back together through his actions and perseverance. But who could forget about his sidekick, Telly-Vision? Since Chibi-Robo can't talk, Telly-Vision acts as his interpreter, fore he can speak in a language that others understand. The primary purpose of Chibi-Robo is to clean the house using all kinds of different methods: scrubbing, and picking up. But as you progress in the game, those become your secondary focus, while instead helping out the family and other toys becomes the primary focus, and rightfully so; the game truly shines when interacting with the other dozen character found within this odd household.

Playing as Chibi-Robo is quite complicated yet completely different from most platformers. The oddest addition is the battery mechanic; since you're a little robot, you need to recharge yourself when your battery runs low on energy. This adds unneeded realism to an already fictitious game, and, at times, can frustrate the player. Also, jumping (a platforming must) is another story. Instead of jumping with a preset button, you hold the analogue stick in the direction of an obstacle, and a green ‘action bar' will appear onscreen. To fill the bar up you must continue to walk in that direction, and once filled, Chibi-Robo will jump on top of the object. While it does take out the skill of timing jumps, it does make you think if you have enough energy to make it to your next destination, because every action Chibi-Robo makes uses up energy. While it's always nice to see a development team try to innovate, some things should be left alone, especially something as mandatory as jumping. The jumping mechanic should grow on most players, but the battery mechanic constantly stunts the pace of the game towards the beginning. Once about an hour or two into the game, you'll have upgraded your battery high enough so you won't have to recharge as often.

As you scavenge the house, you'll use your various tools to help clean certain messes. To pick up trash you simply tap A in-front of it, and it's stored inside of Chibi-Robo. You'll quickly obtain a toothbrush that cleans up any gunk on the ground. To equip a tool, simply tap X and a tool selection screen will come up (think Ratchet & Clank). To use the toothbrush, simply tap A repeatedly in the direction on the gunk. Such redundant and annoying tasks are grating in real-life, but in Chibi-Robo, they're both addictive (yes, and fun) and rewarded. All completed tasks are rewarded with ‘Happy-Points' and/or/both ‘Moolah. Some tasks will earn you more than others. Also, the more trash you throw away at a single time, the more you're rewarded. All methods of creating ‘happiness' are rewarded constantly giving the player a constant urge to pickup one last wrapper.

Cleaning is one way of earning Happy Points, and it's usually the less rewarding when compared to interacting with the other characters. Talking to Mrs. Sanderson and Mr. Sanderson reveal the most information regarding their ‘issues,' while also rewarding you for doing some chores for them. Have no fear though, there are plenty more characters to keep you occupied, such as Jessica's teddy bear (my personal favorite). When you first meet the teddy bear, she seems calm, but his urge for nectar grows until it makes her unstable; she goes insane and demands nectar to be sprayed over her body. Doing so rewards you with both Moolah and Happy Points. It's hilarious to see a perfectly/cute teddy bear go from stable to completely crazy. While most characters aren't as intriguing as she is, they're all inventive and creative all with their own stories.

Occasionally to add some variety, the evil Spydorz will appear and start to attack Chibi-Robo. Although the combat is extremely underdeveloped, it's always fun and interesting. In these situations, you'll equip your Chibi-Blaster. Like every other tool, this one is also used with the A button, and it homes in on the enemy, if aimed in its general direction. When a Spydor is defeated, it drops ‘Scrap,' which is the last type of item you collect. Scrap is used to create ‘Utilibots,' which take the form of movable ladders, bridges, and tele-pads. These both help you get to areas that were previously unreachable, and reach available areas quicker.

The game runs on a day and night system, so when the switch occurs, you will be automatically sent to your Chibi-House (some missions only appear in day or night as well). In your house, you can save, and upgrade Chibi-Robo in several ways. Your Happy Points will be totaled up and if you obtained a certain amount, you will receive a battery upgrade, increasing your batteries capacity: a constantly rewarding system. New tools can be purchased in your house using your Moolah, things like upgrades for your Chibi-Blaster and items that increase how long night and day are. Lastly, this is also where you use your Scrap to make Utilibots. This system is surprisingly addictive, and constantly rewarding (another gaming must).

Dated, yet fitting is what can be said about the graphics in Chibi-Robo; it honestly looks like an N64 game, with some effects that couldn't be pulled off with the N64's inferior hardware. The most impressive aspect, graphically, is the fact that some floors are shiny, and that Chibi-Robo looks like he's made out of metal. The rest is dated, yet constantly colorful. On the other hand, the sound is constantly obnoxious; every time Chibi-Robo's feet land on the ground, and it a different sound bloop. This actually goes for every action he does, but it's the worst when, at nighttime, the background music suddenly stops. It's also unfortunate that all the characters speak in ‘Mumbo Jumbo' language (think Banjo Kazooie). Sure, they all of them fit the characters personality, but it doesn't make them any less tedious and bothersome. Luckily the only two songs played in the game (the regular background music and the combat theme) sound awesome; it's a shame everything else sounds terrible.

With some odd platforming, creative characters, addictive gameplay, terrible sounds, and dated yet fitting graphics it's easy to say that this game has some serious potential. Having this game as an ‘open world' setting works in its favor, and it's constantly rewarding, giving the player a reason to come back to it. If it has all this going for it, why does the game's jumping mechanic feel so complicated, the sound mostly annoy, and always have you recharging yourself? The redeeming factors definitely outweigh these quirks, creating a rewarding platforming adventure, with minor faults in almost every category.

Fun-Factor- 8.0:
Interacting with the large cast of characters becomes this game's highpoint, but the platforming is entertaining, yet overly complicated. Why try to innovate jumping? And the constantly draining battery stunts progression.

Presentation- 6.4:
The graphics fit the feel of this game, although they are dated. ‘Mumbo Jumbo'languages are never good, and this one makes them even worse. Terrible sounds made from every action you make, although the only themes are all awesome.

Addictiveness- 9.6:
Constantly rewarding causing the player to always want to pickup one last wrapper. If addicted enough, some dedicated players will never have to worry about the battery; it's that addictive. Awesome upgrades.

Overall- 8.0:
Even with an odd fusion of gameplay mechanics and grating sounds, Chibi-Robo's addictive and satisfying gameplay should win most gamers over.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/27/06

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