Chibo Robo: Park Patrol - Reader Review  

Gardening Made Touchy
by JuMeSyn

Click here for game information
15-25 hours
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   To best combat the forces of environmental destruction, one should grow plants in an effort to brighten up the world. This is an undeniably debatable notion that makes up the central theme of Chibi Robo: Park Patrol. Planting a park full of flowers where not much grows may not be a world-saving notion to most of us, but the altruistic robot is going to instill happiness in the hearts of humans however it has to.

    As detailed at the game's beginning, Chibi Robo has been detailed to grow flowers in an effort to counter environmental depredations and lift the human spirit. Having been established in the park by corporate benevolence (which in and of itself is unusual) Chibi Robo sets out to make the whole park bloom. Along the way friendly toys will be encountered with aid mutually given, and evil will take a strong dislike to what Chibi Robo is attempting. The format and presentation are rather different than any other title around, but the core story isn't unique.

    Upon being located in the park, Chibi Robo meets a little friend named Chet (with no arms or legs and thus unable to help Chibi Robo outside of the Chibi House where rest takes place). After a few tips from Chet, Chibi Robo ventures out into the park to start growing flowers! This is accomplished via a syringe of water, which the player accesses on the touch screen and manipulates on the touch screen. Pushing an arrow upwards on the touch screen shoots a stream of water out, and this stream of water when it connects with a bud will quickly cause the bud to turn into a flower. Some flowers, once grown, have green stems which indicate they will produce more buds if properly persuaded. Chibi Robo's method of persuasion is that of dance; the player must select Chibi Robo's boom box to use and then keep some semblance of a beat with the stylus. This is not terribly difficult to do, so RPGamers without rhythm need not fear an insurmountable ordeal. Upon producing more buds (and through a variety of other methods available) Chibi Robo will be awarded Happy Points. And Happy Points are what Chibi Robo desperately needs.

    Happy Points allow Chibi Robo, first and foremost, to recharge. Being a robot, Chibi Robo needs energy, and Chet converts Happy Points into watts that Chibi Robo can use to stay moving. Nothing terrible happens if Chibi Robo runs out of juice, save that a lot of the currently acquired Happy Points that have not yet been turned into watts will be lost. Happy Points also serve as a currency, however. In order to buy new items and features for Chibi Robo's use in sprucing up the park, watts are necessary. Unless the player is completely incompetent there will be no problem obtaining enough Happy Points to keep Chibi Robo constantly supplied with energy and to buy very useful effects. One of the most useful effects to purchase is a larger battery (this happens multiple times, each new battery an improvement over the previous), for Chibi Robo's watts are used very quickly.

Thank you very much Mr. Roboto, for doing the jobs that nobody wants to! And thank you very much Mr. Roboto for helping me escape when I needed to! Thank you very much Mr. Roboto, for doing the jobs that nobody wants to! And thank you very much Mr. Roboto for helping me escape when I needed to!

   Watts are needed for one other purpose, the renovation of the park. At the game's beginning this is impossible because the necessary abilities have not been acquired, and because Chibi Robo cannot personally renovate the park save for the growing of flowers. Friends must be recruited by Chibi Robo, and in order to undertake renovations of the park they need watts to work. Foremost among the renovations is tilling, vital to make most of the park change from sand (which flowers will not grow in) to soil. Each of Chibi Robo's friends has a little story of his/her own to relate in between working on the land and needing to be reenergized.

    Sometimes Chibi Robo will need to enter town instead of the park. In town Chibi Robo will find the toys that can renovate the park (they always need a charge of energy from Chibi Robo to get moving again) along with various things in boxes strewn along a few locations on the street that can either be freebies for park renovation abilities or items highly prized by Chibi Robo's new friends that they will gratefully reward being given with Happy Points. A special toy named Kid Kombo does not aid in the park's renovations but will teach Chibi Robo new dances. A few people (only visible from around the knees down, given that Chibi Robo is 10cm tall) can also help out. The florist in particular will award massive Happy Points, though fulfilling his wishes means Chibi Robo will have more planting to do.

    The toys in town are initially needing Chibi Robo's aid thanks to the machinations of Sergeant Smogglor, who is but a servant of the evil Miasmo. Taking great offense at Chibi Robo's goal of invigorating human happiness by way of flowers, Smoglings begin popping into the park a few days (game time) after beginning. Smoglings are easy enough to vanquish with Chibi Robo's prized water-squirting skills but they have the unpleasant habit of making flowers black. Not only do people not take joy from black flowers but the things die at sunset. Sergeant Smogglor also takes issue with the hopeful dreams of the toys in town and uses his powers to disable them, which is why they initially need Chibi Robo's help to become mobile once more. Combat takes up a fairly small portion of the player's time in this game however. An annoying sound effect always clues the player in to when Smoglings are running amock and a quick touch of the map with the stylus will let the player look around the park to establish their location, thanks to Smoglings being given unmistakable icons of detection on the map.

This is a flower.  This is a flower on drugs.  Any questions? This is a flower. This is a flower on drugs. Any questions?

   The stylus and touch-screen handle just about all of the interactions and do a fine job with it. Though the camera likes to get a little naughty by keeping a flower in the way at Chibi Robo's expense, it still works far more often than not. The two major annoyances of the game are intentional by the developers: the fact that Chibi Robo's power drains so quickly (prompting the player to acquire new batteries with great verve) and the passage of time in-game. As night falls Chet will interrupt whatever Chibi Robo happens to be doing and make it be returned to the next day. This can also be altered thanks to a mystic clock that becomes available as a park project. I say 'mystic' because Chibi Robo is actually able to slow the passage of time by using this clock. Other annoyances include the necessity of recharging the toy friends from time to time (though they do give Happy Points for being restored) and the need to frequently put down whatever Chibi Robo is holding in order to get Chibi Robo's power plug up and ready to insert into an outlet. These are manageable but a touch annoying.

    Visuals look pretty akin to the N64 on a mediocre day. Everything does have a bright, pleasant feel to it, and the characters animate very well within their polygonal limitations. On the audio side, the music is pleasant but unmemorable. Technically there is no voice acting, though every character has its own variety of sound effects that substitute for voice acting (and for a few of them almost approximate words). These can get repetitive but are also quite entertaining.

    Challenge is hard to find in Chibi Robo: Park Patrol. Certainly the Smoglings will muck around with the park and slow things down, plus Sergeant Smogglor occasionally pops up to force a reaction out of Chibi Robo. But the game is incredibly hard to actually fail in. The only real way to do so would be through inaction; flowers can be regrown without much effort. And the game ended surprisingly quickly for me, somewhere around 18 hours in. Vanquishing Miasmo does not truly end the game however, as the park will not be complete at this point and a large number of optional things can be accomplished. Finishing the park will not take more than another four or five hours, but running around with minigames could take up much more time.

    Chibi Robo: Park Patrol could be described as a sim game of a park, and that would clue the curious in to what the goal is. While the goal is the same as a sim title, the methods of achieving it are very different from any sim title in existence, and the story further differentiates Chibi Robo from the crowd. Perhaps not from the Gamecube Chibi Robo title, but the change of setting and use of the DS's features would seem to make this a unique entry into the RPG canon. Repetitive at times and not a title that does any one thing so well as to be instantly commended, plus its distribution at Wal-Mart only means a great number of people must seek it online (as I did). For those intrigued by the concept, the game is most assuredly worth the time.

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