Welcome true believers (I knew I was going to squeeze a Stan Lee quote in this series somewhere!) and welcome back to the only series that attempts to navigate the vast ocean of 3D platformers and map it to its fullest. Today is full of cuteness, flowers, and chickens…EXCELSIOR!!!
So yet again, I find myself covering another quintessentially ‘Japanese’ game. Chibi-Robo is a 3D platformer centred around a tiny robot-called Chibi-Robo whose mission it is to make people as happy as possible.
The story starts with you being given to a small girl called Jenny for her birthday, and for some reason the story contains domestic conflict, super early on…which is new. As I was saying, you are given to a little girl and end up having to help clean their house and solve their problems, large and small, to gain happiness points to achieve the number 1 rank of ‘Super Chibi-Robo’.
Gameplay mainly consists of exploring your owner’s house, cleaning up their messes, fixing their problems, and interacting with their toys, which are for some reason alive. So, basically you’re Rosie from The Jetsons if she was 10 inches tall and lived in Toy Story.
The controls are really smooth, although they’re a little strange. Unlike most platformers, you don’t have a jump button but instead you simply bush the stick towards ledges or obstacles and Chibi jumps over them or climbs up them. You also have gadgets that help you in your tasks, including a helicopter that helps you to glide across gaps, a toothbrush to clean up messes or spills, and a blaster gun for taking out obstacles.
As you explore the house you have two different time constraints placed on you, the first is a day night timer which changes the time of day when it hits zero, and a battery meter which you must recharge before it runs out or you lose half of the money you’ve collected. The money you collect that is randomly scattered around the house is used to buy items and upgrades at the level hub you return to in-between every night and morning, and you also collect scrap you can use to create robot helpers.
The most impressive thing about the game is its sense of style and music. Every step you take is accompanied by a cute chime noise and other actions have their own musical chords as well. For instance, when you’re pulling or pushing something the game plays a little Spanish guitar riff, which is just the best thing ever. Visually the game matches the music perfectly, everything is in bright and vibrant colours, and the world has a pleasing cartoonish style to it. All of which goes together to create a very cohesive game world that is so cute that it actually makes me feel a little sick, in a good way.
Overall: A great little platformer with an overwhelmingly cute style that really is something to behold. Definitely worth picking up if you’re a GameCube fan.
Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol
Ahh, another week, another set of sequels to review. As you can probably tell this game is a sequel to Chibi-Robo, this time focusing on a new four inch model intended to help grow flowers and look after parks. As such your mission is still to collect happiness points, but this time you do it by collecting flowers and by improving the looks of the park you are tasked with maintaining, as well as donating flowers to a local flower shop.
The move to the DS means that the focus this time is much more on the activity of managing the park than it is exploring and cleaning a single house. You still have no jump button and use the directional buttons to climb or jump over obstacles, but the bottom screen is now used to control your new suite of gardening gadgets. You start the game with a boom box that makes flowers spit out seeds (obviously) and a squirt gun that makes seeds grow into full-fledged flowers, which you control by spinning and pushing on the touch screen respectively.
Other than the control differences the games are pretty similar, and it’s basically just like having a version of the first game to play on a handheld. There are some other minor differences, the environments are much more open than in the first game, and you spend more of your time maintaining a single area instead of helping people with individual problems. The game’s visuals also focus more on greens and browns than the super bright colours of the previous game, but there is still plenty of colours on display here.
Overall: Another great title in the Chibi-Robo series, and definitely something that is worth picking up if you want something to play on the go.
Ahh movie tie-in games, will you ever fail to amuse me?…Yes, yes you will. I suppose the biggest part of this game that disappoints me is the fact that I had heard good things, and I also enjoyed the movie being a fan of Aardman’s work. However, I am ashamed to say that despite this game having some more glowing reviews from people whose opinions I trust, I didn’t like this game, not one bit.
Firstly, the game does look and sound great. It has amazing lighting effects, all of the characters look like the ones they represent from the movie, and they even got in most of the original voice actors to reprise their roles (excluding Mel Gibson, who was presumably too busy being an anti-Semite). One of the nicest sound effects is the heartbeat that plays as enemies come closer to your position, which really presents a feeling of tension.
All that said, I really didn’t enjoy playing this game. It has a strong focus on stealth, but the stealth mechanics are extremely shallow. Like in many other games, stepping into light areas or onto surfaces that make noises makes you easier to detect, however, in this game you are instantly spotted and have to run and hide straight away to prevent yourself from getting found.
The gameplay is primarily focused around collecting parts for the chicken’s various escape attempts, with each act of the game ending with a ‘boss’ style level in which you must attempt to rescue as many chicken as possible. There are also plenty of mini-games spread throughout the levels which are at least a nice way of breaking up the same-y gameplay, even if they’re a little dull themselves.
One of my major gripes with the game is the controls. While running you move at the speed of light, but when you’re sneaking your speed changes so much that you feel like you’re giving the chicken whiplash. The sneaking is so slow that it makes any areas with lots of noisy ground as tedious as cleaning an entire house with a toothbrush (call back to Chibi-Robo, perhaps?), and add that to the fact that if you get caught you lose an item that may have taken you a long time to collect, it just makes the game feel horrible to play.
The worst part about this is that the game is aimed at children, and I can’t imagine that any child would have the patience to keep playing the game past the first section. I admit that I played this game as a young child, and I never made it out of the first area, despite having played a decent amount of the much deeper and supposedly more difficult Metal Gear Solid at the time.
I suppose that there is at least something enjoyable about the game, as mentioned the lighting effects are very well done for a PSOne title, and the sound effects work really well too. However, I cannot recommend this game to anyone, even if you have the patience to play the game you should spend your time on a much better game than this.
Overall: Although there are redeeming factors to the game and it couldn’t really be called bad, I would say that there are much better games out there that offer far more bang for their buck. Only really worth it if you enjoyed the film and wanted to see slightly worse versions of the scenes played out on a PlayStation One.