(www.plasticpals.com) Skip's first Gamecube game, Giftpia, never made it across the Pacific despite the intense interest of curious gamers starved of RPGs. Luckily, Chibi-Robo didn't suffer the same fate.
Chibi-Robo shrinks players down to the small size of its titular star, a tiny robot built only to make people happy. Like Mr. Mosquito, Pikmin, Katamari Damacy, and The Minish Cap, Chibi-Robo places a large emphasis on exploring the world from a worm's eye view. The entire game takes place in and around the household of the Sanderson family.
Exploring their humble abode is no simple task if you're 10cm tall, not to mention Chibi Robo's limited power capacity, which always threatens to run out. Being a robot, Chibi won't die but running out of power (which drains in different amounts depending on the actions he performs) is about as close to death as he'll get. Luckily Chibi can plug himself in to wall outlets to recharge, which he'll do quite often in the beginning.
There's also a day / night cycle, with either portion of the day divided into 5, 10, or 15 minute chunks. The longer you set the timer, the more you can accomplish. At night, when the Sandersons are sleeping, the toys spring to life (ala Toy Story) and Chibi will have to make them happy, too.
As Chibi explores his surroundings (often through clever puzzle- platforming) picking up trash and scrubbing away messes left by his human owners, he acquires Happy Points and Moolah. The happier he makes the people, animals, and toys, the closer he gets to becoming the #1 Chibi Robo in the world, which is the underlying goal of the game, and each step of the way nets him increased battery life.
Cleaning up soon takes a back seat to meeting the strange inhabitants of the home, each of whom has a unique personality, dreams, crushes, and problems. These story lines are sometimes brief episodes, while others span the entire length of the game (including after the credits have rolled). Moolah earned or collected can be spent on items or tools that will expand Chibi's arsenal, and costumes give him special abilities (like understanding animals or skipping to the next day).
Chibi-Robo is especially refreshing in that there is virtually no violence or enemies in the game. Spydorz (robotic spiders that attack from time to time) are easily dealt with, and leave behind scrap metal which can be recycled into ladders, bridges, and warps; useful tools for exploring the world. The only real suspense comes when your battery life is running low, or when you're in the middle of a complex platforming task and the day or night is about to end. The importance of this point cannot be stressed enough in today's market of video games which rely too much on violent conflict resolution.
Chibi-Robo is a thoroughly polished adventure game with a laid back, stress-free style, broken up by enjoyable bouts of platforming, action, and mini games. The endearing characters (including the family dog's love-stricken chew toy), the many trials and tribulations they set upon you, and the stories that play out as a result of your actions, are fun and rewarding to watch unfold. The game has a very open-ended style that reminded me of the many intertwining character stories in Zelda: Majora's Mask. All in all Chibi-Robo is a very unique game lasting between 15-20 hours that shouldn't be missed.
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