Chibi Robo review

April 24, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Posted in Game Review, Retro Review | Leave a comment
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Nintendo has a new mascot in town and he’s looking to tidy up the neighbourhood. In another retro review we take a look at some of the GameCube’s last classics.

Title: Chibi Robo

Format: GameCube

Developed by: Skip

Published by: Nintendo

Genre: Action

When the GameCube’s history is documented in years to come one of the aspects likely to be looked upon with fondness is the format’s abundance of quirky titles. From the early appearances of Pikmin and Super Monkey Ball through to Billy Hatcher and Viewtiful Joe, GameCube provided a home to many off-kilter games. But another one should be added to that list: take a bow Chibi-Robo!

Developer Skip was no stranger to quirkiness; their earlier offbeat title GiFTpiA was a master class in weirdness, a sort of trippy Animal Crossing in which main character, Pockle had to make amends to his local townsfolk after he missed his coming-of-age ceremony. For the first part of the game Pockle’s face was hidden under a pixelated blur until you appease the neighbours and are no longer regarded as a criminal. The game oozed weird from every pore and it was criminal that it was never released outside of Japan.

Thankfully, Nintendo saw fit to give Chibi-Robo a PAL release and it was certainly a little treasure. Playing as the titular silver robot, your sole reason for being is to serve the family who’ve bought you (the Sandersons), and make their lives as easy as possible. Seeing as you’re little more than three inches tall this is no mean feat. As you complete some of the more mundane tasks, such as scrubbing the floor or picking up rubbish you slowly gain upgrades and open up new areas of the Henderson’s messy abode.

As he performs certain actions, Chibi uses up some of his battery power, meaning you will have to take time out occasionally to recharge via a mains socket or your display box. When he does so, Chibi picks up the plug at the end of his power cord (which bounces along behind you as you move around) and pops it into an available socket. You can receive several battery upgrades enabling you to travel further and explore the house a little more. It’s quite strange how this mechanic (complete a few tasks, recharge etc.) never becomes frustrating as it might in other games, but instead soon becomes a natural and accepted part of your routine.

It’s actually quite hard to pick any faults at all with this game as it is just so charming. The music in particular is very well created; with Chibi’s footsteps altering the main tune as he trots along, changing depending on what surface you are on. Cleaning stains with your toothbrush also plays a nice little soft guitar riff as you tap the button and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Even the twee graphics, which in some places looked almost like an N64 game, are never obstructive, and the variety of design in the rooms around the house was a joy to see. As were the many characters you came across as the game unfolds. The Henderson’s themselves may be a bunch of slobs but their personalities were well captured as they gave out more tasks for the put-upon Chibi.

And he wasn’t the only inanimate object with a life of its own; when the Sanderson’s are out of sight all the toys in the house spring to life. This cute collection of characters is there to give out hints, new missions or may even give you special costumes to wear. Of course, not all of these Toys are friendly and will chase or shoot at Chibi, sapping his battery power if he gets too close. If his energy does happen to run out Chibi will reappear in his display box, sporting a little bandage and a sling under one arm. It’s so sweet you may be tempted to let the poor little fella run down his energy a few times just to see it.

Chibi is joined in his daily tasks by his manager, Telly Vision, who is basically just a tiny, talking TV. Telly gives you information on tasks in the house, as well as providing you with upgrades when you get enough points. They include extra battery life and the Chibi blaster which comes in very handy when the game’s main protagonists, the Spydorz, make their appearance. These tiny robots have infiltrated the Sanderson’s home and later in the game it becomes Chibi’s responsibility to keep them from harming the family.

The only downside was that it was only released late in the GameCube’s lifespan and so never got the attention it so richly deserved. A sad fact, given that it was a great cure for any gamer jaded from all the same types of games being churned out at the time. Doctors should prescribe Chibi-Robo to any gamer suffering from cynical depression and put a smile back on their faces. If you do have a Wii and never got around to picking this up I can’t recommend Chibi Robo enough.


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