Need help scrubbing floors? Problems with your love life? Just want a perfectly cooked burger? Maybe it's time you got yourself a Chibi Robo.
Chibi Robo is a fashionably small "make happy" robot. He may only be a few inches tall, but he is capable of doing a number of household chores, often by using small objects he finds lying about the house. Chibi Robo can comprehend speech, but cannot speak himself. So, the Chibi Robo set includes Tompy, a hovering TV-shaped robot who guides Chibi Robo in his tasks and politely communicates between your family and Chibi Robo. Also included is the Chibi Robo House, where Chibi Robo can shop online, recycle scrap metal into usable devices, and communicate with the Orange Company's Chibi Robo ranking system, in which he competes against all other Chibi Robos to have the happiest family. Chibi Robo runs on a rechargeable battery and can plug himself into any household electrical outlet. And Chibi Robo emits little heat, so feel free to pick him up with your hands and dress him in cute costumes to look like a frog or a dog or whatever fits your Chibi Robo best!
Chibi Robo has a fun and distinctive charm to it. The characters are all a bit quirky. Papa is out of work and sits on the couch, playing toys and watching TV all day. The daughter, Jenny, claims to be under a curse and always acts like she’s a frog. Toys come to life when the humans aren’t around and typically have crazy traits of their own: the dog’s chew toy is in love with Papa’s space ranger toy, Giccoman; the teddy bear goes berserk when it hasn’t had its honey fix, and the princess doll has a “horror complex" that prevents her from talking to the mummy under the bed (and is the source of her blood-curdling scream).
Audio plays a big role in the cuteness and quirkiness of the game too. Along with the fun soundtrack and character themes, our little robot makes music with everything he does. Walking across different surfaces, scrubbing the floor, climbing ladders, all have matching tunes associated with them rather than your everyday sound effects.
Chibi Robo has a slightly wicked sense of humor. For instance, if you run out of battery power, your pal Tompy will pick you up off the floor and plug you in back at the Chibi Robo house, crying rivers of tears because of your “death". However, you’ll gain the “wounded man" costume, featuring a heavily bandaged Chibi Robo. Costumes have special poses associated with them, and the wounded man’s pose is playing dead – manipulating poor, sensitive Tompy into taking you back from wherever you are in the house, his tears covering the floor because you didn’t feel like walking back.
The house itself is quite expansive. There are about six rooms in all, including the backyard, but each one is enormous and can take a while to explore fully. It can take some time to get to the highest areas since Chibi Robo can’t jump; he can only float across short distances with his Chibi Copter. You’ll be able to purchase ladders and bridges to reach areas that are inaccessible at first, and there are various things in the environment like plants and shoelaces that Chibi Robo can climb up, too. Exploration can be hampered by the game’s day/night system, though, because every time that it switches between day and night, you’re returned back to the Chibi Robo House in the living room. This can be especially frustrating if you’re climbing around the bedrooms on the top floor when time runs out, since you’ll need to backtrack through the house to continue where you left off.
While cleaning house is always fun – especially when you scrub the floor with Papa’s toothbrush – the majority of the gameplay is somewhere between Zelda and Animal Crossing. There is a lot of space to explore the enormous rooms in the house, but as you go, you’ll run into a number of characters needing your help. Papa needs help cooking hamburgers, a bluebird in the tree outside needs to be fed, and a squad of army toys has lost one of their comrades to the jaws of the family dog. Plus, from time to time, robotic spiders will attack Chibi Robo, and he’ll need to take them out with his Chibi Popper. The main dilemma in the game though is the tension between Mama and Papa – there’s a reason Papa sleeps on the couch every night. And tied up in this is also a mysterious robot in the basement, named Deka Robo. To finish the game, you’ll need to get Deka Robo running again and solve the conflict between Mama and Papa.
Chibi Robo is a really cool new franchise and a fun game, but before you get too excited, be aware that it is far from import-friendly. You’ll certainly be able to enjoy some of the charm of the characters and explore the house without too much trouble, but the game is very heavy on text. If you don’t know Japanese or can’t read some of the Kanji characters, you’ll be left to wander the house until you randomly run across something of significance. Trust me; I did it for quite a while, and when someone asks you for an item, you may not have the slightest idea what to pull out of your inventory. There are translation walkthroughs out there to get you through the main thrust of the game, but that isn’t quite as fun. So, if you have a pretty good knowledge of the language, feel free to import from our pals at Lik Sang, but others interested in the game should pester NOA to keep it from falling silently off the release list.