• : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gturner/public_html/content/themes/tng_v4/comment.tpl.php on line 31.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gturner/public_html/content/themes/tng_v4/comment.tpl.php on line 31.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gturner/public_html/content/themes/tng_v4/comment.tpl.php on line 31.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/gturner/public_html/content/themes/tng_v4/comment.tpl.php on line 31.

Chibi Robo & Domestic Compensation

August 4, 2006 By Glenn Turner

I didn't receive an allowance when I was a kid. Sure, the other kids in the schoolyard had a guaranteed weekly income, but my parents didn't believe in such things. Instead they chose to ascribe a monetary value to household chores: I'd receive compensation for each chore I executed based on the time expended and how strenuous it was to complete the task. Washing the dishes garnered fifty cents, tops, whereas mowing the lawn (front & back) would pocket me five bucks. However, most of the tasks were given such piddling value that neither my sister or I had much interest in the meager payoff for the drudgery, and we were too young and selfish to care about what non-monetary value completing such chores meant to the family as a unit.

In Chibi Robo, children and other family members are freed from monotony of chores, leaving robots to bear that burden. You control a six-inch tall robot named Chibi Robo through the Sandersons' estate, home of a financially strapped and troubled family. Jenny, the daughter, dresses solely as a frog and refuses to say anything but 'ribbit' while the father and mother grow more and more estranged, thanks to the father's recent lack of employment. But Chibi is oblivious to such family matters - he's just a simple robot who serves only to scrub the floors and pick up after his owners and, as Chibi's puppeteer, you'll be doing plenty of both.

Since Chibi is such a small little robot, even trekking up a flight of stairs is an adventure, one that requires scaling multiple objects and forethought. Sadly, what he does after he reaches the peak of the stairs is less exciting. You'll manipulate a variety of tools, including a toothbrush, to scrub dirt, paw prints and more, off the floors. You'll direct him to pick up trash, cart it to a bin and throw it away. He'll pick up items, such as crayons and rings, and put them in their proper place or give them to the proper people. And then you'll repeat these tasks over and over again, until all amusement to be had from the whimiscal sounds of his scrubbing and washing has been depleted. Such is the life of this little robot.

He does receive compensation for his cleaning though, compensation in the name of 'Moolah'. Accumulate enough 'Moolah' and Chibi Robo gets to upgrade his system with devices which help him more effectively clean the house. If 'Moolah' is the game's hard currency, then 'Happy Points' is its spiritual currency. Chibi receives 'Happy Points' for making others happy, by helping those in the house out and passing along items they've misplaced or forgotten. It's not just mom, dad & daughter who he aids, but also inanimate objects who have taken on a life of their own. Dad's Drake Redcrest action figure comes to life and patrols the living room at night while upstairs a monstrous teddy bear goes on a pseudo-drug withdrawal tear, raging for honey. The more household members he helps, the more 'Happy Points' he receives. The more 'Happy Points' Chibi Robo receives, the higher he escalates up the ranks of the top Chibi Robos and the faster he transcends his standard robot limitations to become the Super Chibi Robo.

As ridiculous as Chibi Robo's misadventures in house cleaning are, the stories of those inside the house initially come across as earnest and somber. These subplots are not complex, epic tales but instead are vignettes of slightly-askew archetypes, even if half of the characters normally wouldn't have a soul. There's a prevailing sense of sadness in this place, as many of the characters long for something they can (or should) never have, be it love, security, children or even drugs. Unfortunately the game fails to maintain this sense of gravity and ends each character's tale with preposterously sugar-coated conclusions (the most appalling of which involves a character returning from the dead), instead of the domestic unraveling and emotional growth that you'd traditionally expect with a drama of this kind. With or without Chibi, this family (and its toys) have severe problems and the game, like the family, refuses to confront them.

In lieu of a substantial character-oriented story, the game strangely opts for an origin tale and goes to great lengths to reason why the toys can walk, talk and speak. Chibi Robo weaves in absurd details concerning time travel, aliens, self-sustaining energy sources, and an anonymous & malicious corporation who unleash robotic arachnids who invade houses and attack anything that moves, all in the name of giving the toys life. It's a severe letdown to experience this intriguing world only to be told that it's all a byproduct of absurd circumstance when a meatier, more human drama could have potentially unfurled instead. The magic of the fairy tale has been robbed from us and, instead, we're left with an array of remarkably unfulfilling & kludgy plot devices which do little to quell the feeling that the hours of menial fetch quests and back-tracking were nothing more than padding. In other words, I'm left with an overabundance of Moolah but received little in the way of satisfaction.

So where did the satisfaction go? I'm older now and I don't bribe myself to get chores done like my parents tried. I pick up my trash because otherwise the fumes of rotting food can be unpleasant. I put my books back on the bookshelf instead of leaving them laying around because then I can find them when I need them, instead of sorting through a mountainous pile a month later. I don't mind some mindlessly repetitive tasks when it's for the comfort and good of everyone in the house.

Chibi Robo tries to instill the same pride in a job well done with its in-game financial imbursement but, as my parents learned, money isn't always the best carrot. All the Moolah, Happy Points or merit badges are no motivational substitute for real intrigue, suspense or emotional intensity. Chibi Robo was able to deliver the intrigue, but tosses money and collectibles at the player in lieu of a substantial conclusion to these characters' stories and in hopes that it'll compensate for the terribly redundant gameplay.

It truly is a shame that the drudgery of Chibi Robo's chores do not pay off in the end. The characters and opening twists draw you in but, by the time you've wrapped up the primary and secondary stories, you're left with the bitter taste of disappointment. Stronger, more realistic and fulfilling closing chapters for the involved characters could have justified the in-game time spent scrubbing and binning, but instead all that's left at the end is wasted potential and some accumulated dust and dishes in my apartment. Time to clean up.

Digg this article Save to del.icio.us Filled under:

4 comments for ‘Chibi Robo & Domestic Compensation’

#1 Servo Aug 4, 2006 12:41pm

Shame it was such a dud, as it did seem interesting off the bat

When? When I ask, will we get a perfect household chores game? When?!

#2 w3a2 Aug 6, 2006 09:49pm

when i started reading the article i thought it may be a good title for my kids so they learn to do jobs around the house, but it sounds like it will turn them into fruitcakes (moreso than they already are) and so it's best left alone. pity though, from the outset it did seem like a cool and novel idea for a game.

#3 Fiddytree Aug 7, 2006 12:28am

If I wanted to do chores around the house, I'd do them around my own house as opposed to in some game because the reward would be to get my parents to stop complaining

#4 lasoil Aug 27, 2007 02:48pm

id love to have chibi robo but the problem is my dont want to buy it for me says i have to concentrate on scool im bored every single day