Captain Planet would be proud. Whereas the first Chibi-Robo – one of the last truly great GameCube games – saw the mute robot reunite a broken family while tidying up their home, this sequel is set in the great outdoors and has an anti-pollution theme. Speaking of Captain Planet… isn’t it time for his revival? The Ninja Turtles, Transformers and Biker Mice from Mars have had comebacks recently so it only seems fair. The artists would have to make him look at bit less camp to blend into today’s tough teen market though – those tight red shorts really didn’t leave much to the imagination.
Chibi may only be a tiny tin man, but he has a giant task on his hands – to turn a barren wasteland into a place of paradise. Fortunately he isn’t alone in his quest – Chibi can stroll into the local town and become friends with various toys, with the first being a French puppet. They’re all eager to get their hands dirty but require a donation of watts depending on the complexity of the task – building paths, lamps and planting trees won’t cost much, but making soil fertile and building statues will costs the earth. So to speak.
The toys can only do a few deeds before running out of juice, so you’ll need to re-visit town regularly and find them again. To make Chibi’s job even harder a mysterious villain and his band of emo smogling monsters also need to be dealt with. These freaky types kill the park’s flowers, which isn’t a good thing considering new equipment is unlocked according to the amount in your park.
To accumulate watts first you need to gather happy points. The easiest way is to dance to flowers – by spinning a record with the stylus in tune to the beat – but you can also give flowers to the florist, present the toys with sugary snacks and water the new flower buds spewed from jiving. Every movement made by Chibi drains his battery slightly and at the start of the game trips back to base are frequent so that you can recharge, but once bigger batteries are unlocked things don’t feel quite as restrictive.
There’s only so much time in one day too, so it helps to plan ahead – you might want to spend one day watering flowers, another picking and selling or just walking around town looking for Famicom cartridges that let you build new structures. Whatever you do though, the Smoglins can attack at any time so you need to keep an eye on the forecast back at base. They’re easy enough to defeat – just spray them with Chibi’s water gun or run them over in the Chibster’s jeep or car. These modes of transport make it easier to navigate the park, although they also drain your battery life.
With its carefree vibe and colourful visuals it’s a game that’s been designed to tug at your heartstrings; something it succeeds at doing quite nicely. But if there’s one thing that developers Skip haven’t learnt from Chibi’s GameCube romp is that gamers don’t want to plough through (no pun intended) pages and pages of text. Every time you go back to base your minder Chet gives you a rundown of your current assets, asks if you want to save and if you want to covert happy points, suggests finding some friends and blah blah blah. Then every morning it happens all over again. If you don’t mix up the chores it can be a touch on the repetitive side too, although perhaps all the more rewarding because of it. Go fourth and spread the love, man.