Available for: GameCube
Japanese gaming giant Nintendo has been around for a hell of a lot longer than its bullying competitors Sony and Microsoft, and for good reason too. For the past two decades, Nintendo has continued to produce original and innovative software for all ages to enjoy, and while they haven’t necessarily maintained their popularity, they’re not about to throw in the towel either. Perhaps the best example of this is in the release of a little game called “Chibi-Robo!,” a seemingly quirky, kids-only title that most gamers would avoid if they passed by it in stores. In fact, this same thought popped into my head when the game arrived on my doorstop to review, but after spending only a few hours with the charming title, I was hooked. “Chibi-Robo!” is simply unlike anything you’ve ever played before, and one that you will most likely never encounter again.
On the surface, “Chibi-Robo!” looks a bit strange. Okay, really strange, but once you endure the opening sequence you’ll discover a rich environment featuring a wide-open story mode with plenty to do. As the four-inch robot for whom the game is titled after, you arrive at the Sanderson family’s house as a secret birthday present for their eight-year-old daughter Jenny, a strange girl who walks around wearing a frog costume and speaking only in “ribbit”s all day long. You’re job is quite simple: make everybody happy by any means necessary. To do this, you’ll spend most of your day picking up trash, cleaning the house, and spreading the love like the cute little robot that you are. As you go about your daily routine, you’ll be awarded with Happy Points and Moolah (money) that you can then use to upgrade into a more efficient servant. At nighttime, when the Sandersons are asleep, you’ll embark on side missions with toys that come alive (a la “Toy Story”) and aid a fellow robot in regaining his dignity.
Along the way, Chibi will come across numerous items to help him on his quest, like a toothbrush to use for cleaning and a go-go-gadget helicopter that allows for safe landings from high altitudes, but Chibi’s biggest asset is the corded plug that drags behind him. As a robot, you only have a limited energy supply and will have to recharge your batteries via several outlets in the house. This is one of the game’s biggest nuisances, since you’d much rather explore your surroundings without having to worry about breaking down in the middle of your journey. This problem becomes less prominent later in the game when you’re rewarded with stronger batteries, but it’s a possible deal-breaker for those giving the title a test drive.
The other major downside to “Chibi-Robo!” is the incessant dialogue you’re given to read. You can never speed up the text (like every other game ever played) and it’s simply just too much reading for the average pre-teen. Still, it’s hard to deny Nintendo’s keen eye for innovation. “Chibi-Robo!” is one of many highly addictive titles in a unique, 25-year-long catalog that continues to deliver some of the industry’s best games every year. And while the game does include a few elements that make it appear tailor-made for a child – like Chibi’s annoying companion Telly Vision – it’s got enough substance for any adult to enjoy. This is sure to be a pretty attractive budget title in the near future, so if you’re strapped for cash now, make a note to pick it up later.