I'll admit when Chibi-Robo! first came out, I didn't even know it existed until I saw the case in a store. I immediately snickered at the case art and made fun of the game. It wasn't until a couple years later that I gave the game a chance, and while my teasing certainly wasn't uncalled for, Chibi-Robo! has earned its spot in my library and in my heart.
Chibi-Robo is quite ludicrous, and also has a very adorable atmosphere, but at the the same time, it deals with a pretty horrible scenario. While the premise of the game is to keep the Sanderson family happy by cleaning, fixing things, and performing other such menial tasks, the bigger picture is that Mister and Misses Sanderson have been arguing. Miss Sanderson has been talking about a divorce. It's up to Chibi to not only perform his duties as a cleaning robot, but to also get to the root of their problems and reunite them as a family. These are far from the only two characters you'll be helping out, though. Along with their frog obsessed daughter Jenny, and their dog, all of the various toys throughout the house come to life at night when everyone else is asleep. They can also be found active during the day if no humans are present. The cast is incredibly colorful, and leaves a lasting impression. Many of them are parodies of other game characters, including Princess Peach and Captain Falcon.
Chibi spends his days and nights exploring the two floor Sanderson household, and doing what her can. Along the way you'll encounter the various characters and help them with various side quests. As you do deeds for the members of the house, you are rewarded with "Happy Points". Chibi wants to be the best there is at what he does, and the only way to do that is to get more happy points than any other robo in the world! You will also find loose change here and there, which can be spent on upgrades to help Chibi better serve the Sandersons. He also acquires various costumes throughout the game with allows him to perform a few special abilities.
a two floor household might sound like a very restricted game environment, but when you're only 10 centimeters tall, that's a lot of ground to cover. Chibi explores his environment in unconventional ways such as pulling out drawers to use them as steps. Chibi is always restricted to the 2 stories though; there is also a basement, and you can eventually venture into the back yard. Again, this is all on explored from the perspective of a 10 centimeter tall robot. Being a robot, Chibi runs on a battery, the charge for which is displayed in the corner of the screen. The charge depletes with each action Chibi performs, from taking a step to cleaning a stain. If you notice your charge is running lo,w you have to find a wall outlet to plug into and recharge. This limits your exploration until you get bigger batteries and helps pace the game.
Despite all of its cuteness and charm, Chibi-Robo! is far from perfect. While there is plenty to keep your busy, sometimes it all starts to feel a little too much like work. I guess it's fair since...well, it is. The graphics also aren't up to par with what I feel could have been done. Although models are solid and smooth, they're lacking a lot of details (namely fingers). Everything has a bit too much sheen to it as well. The sound design is also quite questionable. The funky music fits in well with the cartoony American 1950's household, but the character voices are just grating. They're hilarious the first few times you hear them, but it gets old fast. It doesn't help that Chibi makes chimes with every single step he takes. Every surface has its own musical sound effect that creates melodies as you move, but it just gets really annoying.
Chibi-Robo! is a lengthy, and unique adventure with an interesting goal. The characters are endearing, even if their voice tracks are not and the game is filled to the brim with things to keep you occupied. The graphics are under par, and the sound design is annoying but aside from that, this is a solid game and there really isn't another quite like it. It's worth experiencing for its oddity alone.