Chibi-Robo!

Chibi-Robo!
Chibi-Robo! Cover
Platforms GameCube, Wii
Genre Non-violent household platformer
MtAMinutes to Action 3
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Amazon

Ever get tired of fighting? Can't someone make a game about something besides combat? Those were questions I was asking myself when I discovered Chibi-Robo. I remembered this Nintendo-published game vaguely from when it first came out, but looked into it with more interest as I tried to find a game about something other than violence.

Granted, games like The Sims are about something other than fighting, but what I was looking for was a game that used familiar game elements in a non-combat setting. For example, could you earn experience points by talking to people? Explore and find something other than more enemies to fight? Surely it can be done, but it didn't seem to exist in the wild.

That's when I found Chibi-Robo. Developed by Skip Ltd. and published by Nintendo, it seems to be an adventure game in which you play as a tiny robot and explore a house. Your mission is to make the host family happy, which you do by cleaning up trash and spills, finding lost objects, and sundry other tasks.

But will a non-violent game be able to offer an exciting first hour experience?

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select New Game and the first hour of Chibi-Robo begins. We start off at a child's birthday party; the girl is wearing a frog hood. The people speak gibberish and it's subtitled in English (a bit like Animal Crossing) Her mother gives her a hat and tells her now that she's eight she can't run around dressed like a frog anymore. The girl answers "Ribbit ribbit ribbit."

01 - The dog gives the girl a bone, and the girl says ribbit again. The girl's name is Jenny.

02 - Jenny's dad gives her a Chibi-Robo, which Jenny's mom blames him for getting because he wanted one himself.

04 - Chibi-Robo has a handler named Telly, who happens to be a flying television. Telly tells me I need to give Jenny a birthday present. I get control, and climb onto a vase and press A to pick up the rose, which Chibi-Robo proceeds to put inside his head. Jenny's dad is very excited by this and says "Hot diggity-dog!"

Chibi Robo Dad

05 - Telly informs me that I can access my item menu by pressing X and I select the Chibi-Copter, which pops out of the little robot's head and allows him to lower himself gently from high places. I can also hover a short distance horizontally by holding A. B pulls it back into my head.

06 - I walk to Jenny and give her the rose. In return I receive 20 Happy Point and 120 Moolah. Telly says I will earn Happy Points and Moolah by making people happy. Happy Points will raise my Chibi-Ranking, and my goal is to get to first place.

07 - The cutscene ends with the line "And they kept on partying until late into the night." The loading screen tells me I'm in the Chibi-House now. Telly informs me that the family's name is Sanderson, then calculates my Chibi-Ranking which went from 1,000,000 to 783,564. Apparently the Chibi-Ranking is a leaderboard of all the Chibi-Robos manufactured and how I compare to them.

08 - If I reach number one I'll be upgraded to "Super Chibi-Robo." I get a chance to save, and Telly celebrates by firing confetti in the air.

09 - I unplug from the wall with B and pick up the confetti on the floor (for which Telly apologizes) and Chibi-Robo puts it in his head (the top hinges at the back). I can access a computer which seems to be the shop, and there's a bin that can make Utilibots if I have scrap to put in it.

10 - I leave the Chibi-House and enter the living room. It's night and Mr. Sanderson is sleeping on the couch. Chibi-Robo looks to be about five inches tall, judging by the objects in the living room. Telly fires more confetti, which I clean up again.

Chibi Robo Wall Plug In

11 - Chibi's footsteps make musical notes, and the notes are different depending on the surface I'm on. When I run it makes a little song. Quite charming. I push a box onto the floor and it breaks revealing 5 Happy Points, and I collect some Moolah under the couch. I'm picking up candy wrappers and crumbs, all of which go into the little robot's head.

12 - Oh, there's a toothbrush on the floor. I pick it up and Telly says it's Mr. Sanderson's toothbrush but he won't mind if I take it. He says I can clean up stains with it, and it can be equipped from the menu. Of course there is a stain right by me, so I clean it up by tapping A with a rhythm, and a guitar melody plays as I do so. I get Happy Points for doing this.

13 - There's wastepaper everywhere. I come across an outlet, so I go ahead and charge. There's a battery meter in the bottom-right which is constantly going down. Standing still, it goes down very slowly, running makes it go down faster, using the toothbrush even faster, and so on. To charge, I have to pick up my plug (which drags behind the little guy everywhere he goes) and put it in the socket. He charges very quickly, and it gives me the option to save, which I deny. After charging, Chibi is carrying his plug, which seems to make him run a little faster than dragging it. I find some drawers that I can pull out to make steps to climb up and I find 50 Moolah and a Frog Ring. Don't know what this is yet but I bet it has something to do with Jenny.

14 - Suddenly the TV came on all by itself. I clean some stains and it drains my battery quickly, so I head back to the outlet to recharge. I save this time.

15 - I go back to the TV which is playing what looks to be a superhero cartoon. Then I'm startled as an action figure of the superhero drops down next to me. He looks kind of like Captain Falcon from F-Zero, and he launches into a monologue about good and evil.

16 - He introduces himself as Space Hunter Drake Redcrest, accompanied by anime gestures and appropriate sound effects. He's more than twice as tall as I am, and tells me that the toys in that house move and speak when humans aren't around. Sounds like Toy Story. He tells me my life needs more justice, and he's going to solve that problem by giving me a special gift just for me. Then he laughs, which makes me a little nervous.

Chibi Robo Kitchen

17 - I get the Drake Redcrest suit, which I can don from the equipment menu. He says if I'm ever interested in achieving justice, I can talk to him while wearing the suit. Yes, I'm totally dressed like Drake Redcrest right now.

18 - I took the suit off because it made me feel like a dork. Drake is currently dancing around the room. Meanwhile I find some more drawers to open. Chibi has trouble getting up, it's cute.

19 - I use my Chibi-Copter to cross a gap, where I find a small door with a switch that is triggered by my plug. I go through the door which leads to a trippy little room full of swirling designs and a bunch of Moolah. I take the Moolah, and when I come out Telly says "There's nothing to worry about. Dum de dum de dum." Oh kaaaaayyyy.

20 - My battery is low so I head to the outlet, which is across the room. Telly tells me my battery is dangerously low, but at the same time I come close to a toy caterpillar which triggers a dialog sequence.

21 - She's apparently the dog's toy, and he left her wedged in the door to the kitchen, half in each room. She's writing in her diary about being in love with Drake Redcrest. I wonder what would happen if I talked to her wearing the suit?

22 - Telly introduces himself to the caterpillar as my manager. My battery gets below 30 (I have 80) and starts flashing red, but I get to an outlet right after that and recharge. I go back and talk to the caterpillar wearing the Drake Redcrest suit, and she asks if it's really Drake. I say yes but she says she won't believe it unless she sees my pose.

23 - Telly says I can pose by pressing Z, but only after I learn the pose.

Chibi Robo Toothbrush

24 - I go back to talk to Drake while wearing the outfit, and he offers to administer the test of justice which is long, hard, and arduous.

25 - He poses and I have to press Z at the right time. It takes me a few tries but I got it and now I can do his pose, which includes a pink explosion behind my head. Then he talks more about being a Space Hunter.

26 - I got 19 Happy Points and 100 Moolah for learning that move. After that the night is over and I'm warped back to the Chibi-House.

27 - My Chibi-Ranking went to 307,290. I only need 18 more Happy Points to get the next bonus battery, which I'm assuming will give me more power so I don't have to recharge as often.

28 - I decide to take a look at the online shop while I'm in here. Currently each day lasts five minutes, but I can buy a timer that lasts 10 or 15 minutes for 10 or 15 Moolah, respectively. Currently five minutes seems about right, so I don't buy those. I can buy a blaster for 1,100, but I have just over 500. I can also buy a hotrod and a spaceship for over 2,000 apiece.

29 - I head out, it's now daytime. The room is different: Mr. Sanderson is now sitting on the couch and Jenny is laying on the floor coloring. In a previously unexplored corner I find a lamp cord that I can climb (with accompanying melodic effects) to reach a high table.

30 - There's a record player up here, but I can't do anything with it so I head back down to the floor.

Chibi Robo House Map

31 - Some twigs lay on the floor near the back door, so I pick them up and put them in my head. There are also some muddy paw prints; I recharge before tackling that chore.

32 - I get 8 bonus Happy Points for cleaning up all the prints, besides 2 per print. I try to pick up some waste paper but it tells me I can't hold anymore. What am I supposed to do with it then? I talk to Mr. Sanderson, he picks me up and tells me Mrs. Sanderson is mad at him.

33 - I talk to Jenny, who seems to be unable to say anything other than ribbit. I jump into her hand and she picks me up. Wait, she just said "I can draw!" We're making huge strides here!

34 - I clean some more paw prints which nearly drains my battery. I head for the outlet and make it there with 27 left. It'll be nice to get that bigger battery. I find that I can go into first-person view with Y, which highlights objects of interest. R brings up a 3d map of the room, which shows where all the outlets are as well as exits, which are all closed right now.

36 - There's picture of a giant robot on the wall. I can zoom in with the C Stick in first-person view and I spot two more frog rings, but I can't get to them right now.

37 - The family is out and about during the day, and the toys are out at night. I find another Chibi-Door, which again contains a bunch of Moolah. A little odd, but there aren't many things about this game that aren't odd.

38 - The day's almost over. Five minutes seems just right, there's not much else I can do right now anyway. I head on into the Chibi-House and adjust my point total. I'm ranked at 80,500 now! For making it into the top 100,000 I get a bonus battery. I now have 100 battery power instead of 80! I need 200 more Happy Points to get the next battery.

Chibi Robo Killer Teddy Bear

40 - The day ends.

41 - It's night again. I now have 25% more battery power, so I shouldn't have to recharge as often. The room appears to be the same as last night with all the trash returning and the characters in the same places.

42 - Oh, except Mr. Sanderson dropped the book he was holding last night. I climb onto it and read it; it's the Chibi-Robo owner's manual. I flip through and don't find anything earth shaking, so I exit. Telly says he stored it in his memory banks, so I guess I can access it from the pause menu or something now. Might be handy for reference.

43 - I show my new pose to the caterpillar, who is so embarrassed she disappears. Ah-ha, now I can go through the door where she was and get into the kitchen!

44 – There's only two plugs in this room, I'd better be careful.

45 - I find another Chibi-Door and gather 150 Moolah. There's some more wastepaper on the floor but I can't hold any more. Maybe if I found a trash can I could throw it away.

46 - I got inside the dog's house, but there's nothing I can do in there right now.

Chibi Robo Full Charge

47 - Cleaning some more muddy paw prints nets me 10 Happy Points as a cleaning bonus. Since the house seems to reset every cycle I guess I could just grind for Happy Points to get the next battery.

48 - I climb up some drawers but there's nothing up there. I jump down but the fall is too far and I lose a bunch of battery power. Fortunately I landed right next to a socket, so I recharge, declining the invitation to save. Telly lets me know I've recharged 11 times (that seems like an awful lot so far).

49 - There isn't much to do in the kitchen. I do spot Sophie (the caterpillar). She's on the counter out of reach talking to a Drake Redcrest mug.

50 - Night's over, I'm now ranked 44,843 and only need 46 Happy Points for the next battery. Paw prints here I come.

51 - I almost have enough money for the Chibi-Blaster, which sounds cool.

52 - I discover the door to the foyer is now open. It's inhabited by egg soldiers called the Free Rangers (I just now got this joke), and their commander orders them to not let me through.

53 - They're shooting little pink balls from positions all over the foyer.

Chibi Robo Propeller Fly

54 - Every time I get hit I lose battery power. Looks like I'm going to have to find an alternative route.

55 - I talk to Jenny and give her the Frog Ring I found earlier. I get 33 Happy Points (bringing my total over 200)! She also tells me she wants nine more. What a greedy kid!

56 - I find a trash can in the living room and I'm finally able to throw away all the trash I've picked up. I get about one Happy Point per piece of trash (two for candy wrappers), totaling 46 Happy Points.

57 - I just fell really far and lost a lot of battery power.

58 - After charging you can unplug by just walking away; the cord stretches and pops out, causing the little guy to trip. I head back into the Chibi-House because I have enough Points for the next battery. My Chibi-Ranking is now 7,788!

59 - For making it into the top 10,000, I get a 120 battery! I now need 250 more Happy Points for the next battery. I save and buy the Chibi-Blaster because I have enough money.

60 - It's an arm cannon like Samus' and it shoots green energy for a short distance. I can even fire it in first-person view like Metroid Prime! But the hour's over.

Chibi Robo Happy Birthday Jenny

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: I first got control at 3 minutes, but didn't really get to do anything until 10 minutes.

Favorite Thing: Adventure game mechanics with no combat!

Least Favorite Thing: Being asked if I want to save every time I recharge.

Graphics: Chibi himself looks good, and the environments do too, but the other characters could have benefited from some more polygons. It almost looks intentional, but it doesn't look very good.

Sound: Adorable! The little musical notes that play when he walks, the acoustic guitar sounds when he cleans up a stain: it's unique and it makes me happy.

Story: The premise is unique, but there didn't seem to be an overarching story besides a little bit of tension between Mr. and Mrs. Sanderson. However, this seems like the kind of game that builds its story slowly, so I'm going to let it by on premise for now.

Environment Design: Making a house into an adventure for a little robot is cool. You definitely get a different sense of scale running around under couches and tables. Some of it is contrived (a stack of books next to the couch, just the right height to climb on?) but the game has the right suspension of disbelief for it to work.

Fun: It is fun, in a different sort of way. You still get the discovery and achievement highs, as well as getting pleasure from making others happy.

Keep Playing: Yes, I like making the Sandersons happy.

You Will Like This Game If: Your heart is not a cold, cold stone. Or you want a non-violent adventure game.

Thoughts: Chibi-Robo did exactly what I wanted it to do. It's basically a Zelda-style adventure, but instead of a huge world you traverse a house, and instead of saving the world you work to make a family happy.

As far as a first hour experience goes, it started slowly, allowing just a moment or two of play control during a ten minute long cutscene. Like I mentioned, there wasn't much of a story, but the rewards came quickly enough, with me opening two new areas, getting two bonus batteries and the Chibi-Blaster in the first hour.

Speaking of the Chibi-Blaster: supposedly there is combat later in the game, with Chibi-Robo fighting off mechanical spiders, but it still doesn't play a very big part in the game. The Chibi-Blaster is also used for other purposes.

Did the non-combat mechanics provide the kind of thrill or hook that a more violent game could offer? Not really, but what it did provide was an experience that was quirky and fun, strangely satisfying, and endearing. I never wished I could kill, mangle or destroy anything. In fact it made me want to pick up trash, scrub stains, and talk to toys.

Chibi Robo Toothbrush Art

Comments

Follow-Up

I've continued to play this game for several more hours and it gets even better. The story starts to come out more and really starts driving the game. It also gets stranger.

Sounds fun

This is one of those games that I've always heard great things about, but had no idea what it actually was about. I never imagined you would play as some household robot, so weird, yet right up my alley.

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