(GameCube)

Chibi-Robo (GameCube)

Game Review

Chibi-Robo Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Sean Aaron

Is this a charming game about an altruistic robot or a shambolic scavenger hunt?

Meet the Sandersons, your atypical dysfunctional American family: Mr. Sanderson is an out-of-work engineer-cum-manchild who lives on the lounge sofa playing with action figures and watching his favourite superhero program Space Ranger Drake Redcrest(TM) (apologies if that hits too close to the bone for some readers). Mrs. Sanderson is trying to keep everything together in the wake of her husband's apparent disinterest in finding gainful employment and habit of spending their meager funds on toys. Their daughter Jenny wears a frog costume and refuses to communicate in anything but frog language. She worries about her family's future now that Mom won't let Dad sleep in their bedroom; instead locking herself up at night to go over the family finances. In a move that infuriates Mrs. Sanderson, Mr. Sanderson brings home yet another new toy in the form of Chibi-Robo, a tiny robot whose mission in life is to become the number 1 Chibi-Robo in the world via giving happiness to the people in his new home. Thus is the stage set for one of the most charming and endearing games ever to grace a console as players assume the role of Chibi-Robo in order to restore harmony and happiness to the Sanderson home.

The game's sights and sounds are an immediate draw: the house is a bright and colourful mix of different eras, with a TV that looks vintage 1960s set admist a timeless household decor filled with all manner of odd and lovable characters. The music is simple and light; punctuated by musical notes that play in time to Chibi-Robo's footsteps and change depending upon the surface he's walking on. The speech is an appealing musical gibberish that is commonplace nowadays, though the English subtitles are well-translated giving each character their own unique personality. Whilst Chibi-Robo! deals with serious issues like death and divorce it doesn't get too heavy and being an active participant in the story's unfolding is one of the great joys of playing the game.

It's a bit difficult to describe what kind of game Chibi-Robo! is. It's not really an action game, although Chibi-Robo can obtain a weapon (the Sonic Blaster) and destroy little enemy robots called Spydorz. It's not really an RPG, though Chibi-Robo does gain larger battery capacity as he rises through the global Chibi-Robo rankings and you advance the story by talking with other characters. It's not really a platform game, though the game's setting in the Sanderson's family home does have ample platforms to traverse in Chibi's travels. Whatever the genre, it's definitely a fun game and that's what counts!

Chibi-Robo lives in a plugged-in house on the living room floor with his companion robo ("manager") Telly-Vision, who floats about giving advice and taking him home when the day is done (or he fails to get to a plug in time and collapses on the floor with a spent battery). Initially Chibi-Robo's out-and-about times last for 5min, but this can be quickly upgraded to 10 or 15 minutes if you so desire. You may also use Moolah to buy upgrades for Chibi-Robo or other items. If you fight Spydorz and destroy them you can pick up pieces of scrap metal for making Utility Bots that act as ladders or bridges in various rooms which you can use to reach high places.

Chibi-Robo's activities alternate between day and night periods for each day. During the day the Sandersons are active and can be chatted, whereas toys are inert. Everybody loves Chibi-Robo!: Mr. Sanderson bought you and he likes gadgets so he just thinks you're the best (changing the TV channel to his favourite TV show gets you some bonus Happy Points, although given his slovenly behaviour is a big cause of strife in the house this might not be the best choice). Jenny likes drawing pictures of you and if you bring her frog rings found scattered about the house she'll bestow you with kisses. Mrs. Sanderson enjoys having tea and being able to discuss her problems with you (though she hasn't gotten your name right and insists upon calling you "Cheebo") and their dog Tao just growls at you (it's a shame you can't speak dog - yet).

At night the Sanderson house takes a darker turn and not just because the lights are out. Mr. Sanderson sleeps on the sofa with the dog and can be heard muttering "sorry dear" in his sleep; you'll find Jenny outside of her mother's bedroom with a sorrowful look on her face, while mother can be heard inside the bedroom telling everyone outside to be quiet and muttering about the finances. The household toys all come to life at night and they all have their own dramas to entagle Chibi-Robo in and provide windows into how the Sandersons got where they are now. Of course with drama and strife comes the opportunity to make people happy - whether that person is one of the Sandersons, a doll, an action figure or one of those novelty musical dancing flowerpot-things.

The active inhabitants of the Sanderson house may be different day or night, but one thing that never changes is that the house is a mess. Chibi-Robo! is a great way to work out your obsessive-compulsive disorder as the start of every active period reveals more rubbish to pick up and stains to clean off the floors and carpets. This ends up being rather satisfying and a good way to ensure a steady flow of Happy Points and Moolah for your coffers. Whilst Mrs. Sanderson may have opposed your presence initially, your helping out around the house is greatly appreciated so she gives you a bonus of both Happy Points and Moolah after a certain number of stains are cleaned or bits of rubbish collected. You never know when these bonuses are assigned so it pays to never leave a pawprint unscrubbed or crumpled paper uncollected.

This game was absolutely made for anyone who enjoys exploring virtual worlds. Chibi-Robo is less than 10 centimetres tall (much like a certain diminutive space traveller), so the Sanderson's modest two-bedroom home is a massive world to navigate. The genius of the game's design is shown by the many ways this world can be navigated; not all of which are immediately apparent. Part of the fun of the game is simply looking around for objects of note and then trying to figure out how to reach them using stacks of books or shimmying up shoelaces, electrical cables or purse straps. Chibi-Vision gives you a first-person view through Chibi-Robo's eyes highlighting special items and enabling full camera control beyond that present in the normal third person view. Items for Chibi-Robo's use in cleaning make themselves known immediately, but the function of other items won't be clear until a conversation or some other event takes place.

If there's a criticism to be made it's that the automatic camera will sometimes allow objects to block the player's view of Chibi-Robo or have trouble changing perspective when navigating a corner of the room. Thankfully manual control with the C-stick is available and does a good job of moving around obstacles, though the camera won't pass through walls so sometimes it can only be moved in one direction. That this minor issue is the only serious complaint shows how well-crafted this game truly is.

Throughout the game you get the sense that the developers really did their best to bring this world to life and let players have fun exploring it. Rather than using a mission structure or outright telling players what to do, you're given the tools and then enticed into moving the central story along by dropping hints that something interesting could happen if you go somewhere or take a certain action. At any given time you can have multiple avenues of exploration on the go with different storylines happening, so if you run into a dead end with one you can focus on another. The bite-sized gaming portions and ability to save anywhere that Chibi-Robo can plug-in to recharge his batteries also makes Chibi-Robo! well-suited to gamers who don't have time for lengthy play sessions. Best of all after the credits roll, the game doesn't stop, but players can choose to continue play so they can tie-up loose ends or find some more secrets.

Conclusion

Chibi-Robo is an oddity: a game with a simple goal but a great deal of freedom in making the journey. It's a game about tiny altruistic robots helping humans with real problems told in a light-hearted manner that will appeal to a wide audience. This is a game that really defines where Nintendo is coming from as a company: focusing on making people happy and doing good deeds; on helping people rather than shooting them in the face.

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User Comments (53)

smithers

#1

smithers said:

heard all about this game when it first came out but never actually looked at it....seems pretty good obviously but since i have to have a gamecube i cant play the game haha

Machu

#3

Machu said:

Fantastic review Sean! :) Felt like I was playing it all over again. Really good to hear someone else bond with it the way I did. Yay!

So much character, so much fun! <3

Xkhaoz

#6

Xkhaoz said:

I always wanted to get this game, but I never did. I'm going to wait for the New Play Control version to come out. (If it will, that is)

KoKoO_Psy

#7

KoKoO_Psy said:

I would really like the NPC Version to hit the rest of the world, wii players need their tiny robot love.

JamieOStaff

#8

JamieO said:

Excellent review Sean, it is great that Nintendo Life have given this title their attention. It was a clever and inventive approach to present such a troubled American family, in an endearing manner, through the eyes of a cutesy little robot. Fair play to the developers, I do not know that many games that look at the world in this way.
Wasn't Chibi Robo set to be released for Wii with a New Play Control version?
**** Edit. Apologies @LinktotheFuture , @Xkhaoz and @KoKoO_Psy , you had already answered my question before I posted it. The NPC version must have only been released in Japan. Cheers. ****

Incognito_D

#10

Incognito_D said:

If New Play Control version comes out I'll definitely consider it. This was one of those games that I completely missed seeing as it came out right at the end of the GameCube's life. It looks totally bizarre!

Zammy

#13

Zammy said:

Still need to pick this up, too... god, I have too many games to get. :]

Machu

#14

Machu said:

From someone who played it on the GC, I highly suggest playing the original version (if you can find it), as the NPC controls sound horrible by comparison. They are replacing analogue control with point and click, which just wouldn't be the same.

RaylaxStaff

#15

Raylax said:

I missed this when it first appeared, I really wanted it too. Just never got around to buying it D:

I'll have to keep checking CEX and Amazon.

...On that note brb, checking Amazon.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#17

Philip_J_Reed said:

I played this at a store display and loved it, but that was toward the verrrrry bitter end of the Gamecube's lifespan, and I figured that it wasn't worth buying another game for a system I'd be looking to offload before long.

I keep wishing I bought it, though...the only thing preventing me from seeking out a used GC copy is the fact that a) I hate plugging the ugly GC controller into my sleek and sexy Wii, and b) I'm clinging to the almost-definitely-doomed hope of an NPC release for NA.

KanrakusPizza

#19

KanrakusPizza said:

I gotta get this when New Play Control comes out here in US. IF it comes out. Anyone know if it will be here in US anytime soon? This was always a game i wanted, but i never got it.

Stevie

#20

Stevie said:

Another game I never played that is added to my ever growing lis of games I need to buy, Thanks for putting such a strain on my wallet guys and gals at Nintendo Life :)

WolfRamHeart

#21

WolfRamHeart said:

Great review Sean! This is such a fun and charming game! It really is one the most overlooked gems available for the GameCube. If you are someone who hasn't played this game yet then do yourself a favor and track down a copy, it is totally worth it!:)

accc

#22

accc said:

I love Chibi Robo, wish the new DS game would be available in English but NoA seems intent on sabotaging the series for whatever reason :(

Sean_Aaron

#23

Sean_Aaron said:

The main thing NPC seems to bring to the table is widescreen support and use of internal flash for save games, but frankly given you'd be missing out on so much story I really wouldn't import unless you understand Japanese!

I'm unaware of any plans to do NPC for this outside of Japan where it was much more popular than elsewhere.

KonsumKasse

#24

KonsumKasse said:

I brought it last year, a very charming experience that really gives you a positive feeling, every time you play the game.

Sean_Aaron

#27

Sean_Aaron said:

@KonsumKasse: No kidding. I love the fact that even though I've finished the game I can go back and clean the house and chat with the family and whatever whenever I like.

Spread the happiness!

Slapshot

#29

Slapshot said:

This is by far one of the strangest but most memorable games I have ever played. Great job on the review Sean, and I totally agree with the score. Anyone who hasn't played this game, go immediately and buy it.

@accc..... Ummm Ive seen the DS version in the US.

Popyman

#30

Popyman said:

@Machu: Point and click? Really? Thanks then, man, I'm going to get the GC version instead of waiting for that...

MrMartinLee

#32

MrMartinLee said:

Thanks for the review! I'll have to see if I can find a copy. 'Tis the season to look for deals on older games...

accc

#33

accc said:

@slapshot82 - I'm referring to "Welcome Home Chibi Robo", which was released in Japan this past summer. As of now it appears it isn't going to be released in the West.

The_Fox

#34

The_Fox said:

Ah, I knew that this was going to get a high rating after Sean's comment in the IW thread. I never really cared that much for it, but it is oddly endearing.

MayhemStaff

#36

Mayhem said:

Loved this game when it originally came out, just felt being near the end of the Cube's life it didn't get the attention it deserved. One of those I played and completed 100% for all secrets, it hooked me that much.

pixelman

#37

pixelman said:

I have this, but I've never really played it. My younger bro really liked it, though.

Sean_Aaron

#39

Sean_Aaron said:

It's totally worth it. I lucked out and got a German copy, though it was still £16, which is a bit on the high side for a Gamecube game -- it was shiny new and sealed though!

Taya

#42

Taya said:

I loved this game so so much. It was so much deeper than I expected.

The DS Chibi Robo game isn't half as charming.

Chunky_Droid

#43

Chunky_Droid said:

I've been playing Park Patrol on the DS and I'm totally loving it, can't wait for the New Play Control edition to come out, I'll definitely pick it up!

Fly_Guy

#44

Fly_Guy said:

@Sean Aaron: I just bought a sealed copy too, inspired by your great review - found it on eBay for just 12€ !
Running Chibi-Robo was the first sticker I received in Brawl. He's so cute!

MrMartinLee

#45

MrMartinLee said:

Just got a used copy for $9.99 USD. I love this kind of quirky game, and this review was just the reminder I needed. Thanks again!

SKTTR

#46

SKTTR said:

This is one of the few Gamecube games that totally deserves a 9/10.
It's a Miyamoto masterpiece and worth every cent of the 50€ I paid for it.
I would even buy the NPC version for the Wii just to support this game. I only wish Chibi-Robo 2: Park Patrol and Chibi-Robo 3: Happy Rich would come to Europe.

Deviant_Mugen

#48

Deviant_Mugen said:

I remember seeing this game while it was still in stores and it always looked interesting, but I never did pick it up. I might just have to track down a copy on eBay sometime because of this great review...

duke_mccloud

#49

duke_mccloud said:

Great review! This is one of my favorite games of all-time and definatly deserves that 9! Something about this quirky game has brought me back to save Giga-Robo three times! I'll make it a fourth if the NPC version ever sees the light of day. Heck I'll make it a fourth sometime anyways. ;)

Deviant_Mugen

#50

Deviant_Mugen said:

After buying and completing this game, I'm very glad I read this review. Personally, I give this superb game a 10, though...

Tri4ceHolder

#51

Tri4ceHolder said:

I remember my friend had a GC while I had a N64 and he was on his knees begging for this game. His Mom just had him rent it instead. He still wants to buy it. And I would really love to try it out:)

Blink

#52

Blink said:

This is one of my favorite games ever. The exploration was my absolute favorite part of it. Being tiny makes for excellent platforming and discovery. I want another like it, Park Patrol was fun, but it didn't have the same charm.

LittleIrves

#53

LittleIrves said:

Just found this used (at a very reasonable $10) and I, like many of you here, am absolutely loving it. I'd heard about it for awhile but never really understood the point nor its charms... but once you pop the disc in and start to play (if on the Wii, preferably with a WaveBird) the shiny little guy gets his metallic hooks in you and won't let go. Three words that encapsulate this game, and Nintendo: Spread the Happiness. Skip (the developer) is full of wacky geniuses if you ask me.

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