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Review: Chibi Robo

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

We really liked Chibi Robo. The choice of stylized and saturated graphics seems to us like its biggest obstacle to success, as so many gamers seem afraid of that. However, that choice is probably the correct one to portray semi-realism involving sentient toys and robots on an aging platform, and end up with something that's plausible and appealing.
At the same time the broad use of toys as non-player characters also seems to us like a good call, as these guys are much more varied than would be conceivable with an all-human cast, and perhaps that's much more important for a substantial adventure game than the fears of adolescent males. The story suggest a target audience outside of that phase of angst anyway.

A dancing flower

At some point in the history of your family, one of these dancing flowers existed in your household.

Our rating for Chibi Robo

+1, embrace

Classification (not part of the rating)

Style focus: two Barbie Horse Adventures
Story focus: Love And War (one each)
Mechanics focus: two wooden planks

Closing thoughts

Chibi Robo was a blast to play, but a terrible pain to review, which is the hallmark of any good adventure game we guess. We just can't bring ourselves to give examples for many of the game's unique properties, for fear of spoiling the surprise, the cleverness, and in places the whackiness, and that not only concerns dialog and characters, but also Chibi's inventory and tools. You'll just have to find it out for yourself.
And in addition to the struggle in being descriptive without giving too much away, that score was the result of quite a struggle as well. Chibi Robo clearly is not a +2 game, as it is too shallow and doesn't create room for expert play, but we were waxing back and forth between a 0 and a +1. The arguments for going low, which were limited play-time and potentially off-putting art style, have eventually crumbled away though.

Even though there are so few rooms in the game, there's a whole lot to do. Covering the ground level is always easy, but the bulk of exploration is on way elevated paths across furniture, decoration, and whatever else happens to be in the room. Some of these navigation puzzles involve moving parts (think toy machinery) or are just really clever in other ways. Like in a good Tomb Raider game it's not super-hard to do, but it's interesting to figure it out, and nice to see when it works as planned.

In the kitchen

To get up here we had to climb up the handles of some drawers. The ladder thingy on the left there further empowers us to rise to the top.

It lasts somewhere between twelve and twenty hours, depending on how dragged away you get with optional stuff, and as you can play on indefinitely after finishing the main story-line to tie up all lose ends, there is probably no value in replaying the game from the start. Still, as long as it lasts it does have so many surprises up its sleeve that we can forgive that minor quibble.

And the thing with the style, even though it may be a problem for some of you, shouldn't really factor into the score, as we have actually decided as policy more than half a year ago (we just didn't write it down properly yet). The rationale is simply that you have had sufficient time to look at the screenshots – and speaking of which, our gallery contains even more Chibi Robo screenshots –, and if they already turn you off, there's no further need to double that up with a lower score.

The Tomb Raider analogy works well for the "free-climbing" aspect of the game, and the relatively deemphasized combat, but it misses all the characters and equipment to work with, which is a huge chunk of Chibi Robo's progression. It also doesn't account for the non-linear structure of the house and its many obstacle courses and activities.
Nevertheless we find it safe to say that if you enjoy Tomb Raider and enjoy adventure games, you should find Chibi Robo immensely satisfying to play. Even if you don't, Chibi Robo stands out as a unique, fun experience of a kind that we don't see nearly often enough today.

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