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Review: Chibi Robo

Posted May-17 2007 by ron
For Gamecube, runs on Wii, optional 60Hz mode

Spread the happiness!
The first hour or so of Chibi Robo is going to be hard to stomach, as its opening cut-scene and initial "tutorial" sequence hammer home Nintendo's long-standing kiddie stigma. If you go through that though, and stop fighting the style, you'll uncover a refreshing sandbox adventure game with strong writing – and certainly humour – of a type that grown-ups can appreciate just as well.

Chibi Robo and his sidekick Telly

Chibi Robo, the little robot that could, and his (or its?) floating, emoting sidekick Telly Vision.

So let's get over that first hour together: you play the role of Chibi Robo, a tiny household-helper robot that joins a family as a birthday present to a little girl by her father. Mr Sanderson has somewhat of an obsession for toys but no job, so his wife is not too pleased with yet another expensive play-thing, and the mood at the birthday party is already a little creaky because of it. If you could prove to mom you're not a waste of money, but a useful little helper robot, things would get easier for sure.

Chibi Robo keeping mom company at tea-time

The story unfolds as you stumble into the right places at the right time of day. Here we help mom out a bit with the tea, and she tells us about the family's situation.

As you gain control, you can start running around the living room and the kitchen and talk to the family members. Chibi Robo is silent, but is always accompanied by Telly Vision who will provide the talking and the hilarity as required. As for exploration, besides running around on the ground level you can climb low ledges, low relative to your size anyway, or cables that hang to the floor, to get on top of some furniture.
As you don't have anything in the way of tools yet, just about the only thing you can do to help is collecting some of the litter that was left over from the party, and properly dump it off into a waste basket. You will also soon find a toothbrush, which actually looks more like a broom on tiny Chibi Robo, and you can use that to brush away dirt. Such janitorial duties, and in general comforting and helping the family out, is rewarded with "happy points", which are similar to experience points in role-playing games in that you'll earn certain upgrades to your abilities by crossing certain thresholds.

Chibi Robo scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush

The living room is a mess after the birthday party. Lots of opportunities for scrubbing and tidying. And for scale: that's sleeping dad's hand hanging down from the sofa.

Chibi Robo also has a proper currency, aptly named Moolah. Moolah can be gained through the same cleaning activities, but can also be picked up all around the house by apt explorers. Yet another currency, scrap metal, is gained by defeating enemies in combat. Combat is completely trivial though, it definitely doesn't play a large role in Chibi Robo. Enemies don't even appear until about five hours into the game, and should be regarded purely as a source of scrap metal, not a challenge.

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