Oct 8, 2007
While we don’t usually endorse specific retail outlets, Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol for the DS is being sold exclusively at Wal-Mart, which might be a bit ironic to some considering the game’s overt environmental themes. Similar to its GameCube predecessor, this portable offering has you controlling a tiny robot with a rechargeable battery and a power plug tail once again. Instead of doing in-home chores, Chibi-Robo is now outdoors where he is trying to simultaneously get rid of pollution while beautifying a park.
The premise sounds cutesy, but bear with us. It’s far less annoying than it sounds.
You spend each in-game day playing music to entice flowers to produce seeds, watering buds to produce flowers and freeing trapped plastic toys from toppled recycling boxes. The better you do, the better the park will look and the more Happy Points - yes, they are actually called Happy Points and you can collect stickers, too - you’ll earn which are converted into watts to power Chibi-Robo and all of his terraforming, smog busting efforts.
This game is paced almost perfectly so it not only does it correct itself when things get tedious, but also keeps you coming back to grow just a few more flowers. By setting well-announced goals, you’re easily enticed to keep playing and unlock a steady flow of new, in-game gadgets and helpful items for improving your park.
Built-in limitations mixed with periodic moments of action keep the game from getting too easy. You’re limited by a quickly depleting battery that must be recharged and a short in-game day in which to perform tasks and periodically thwart Smoglings who turn your colorful flowers an unattractive hue. Enemies become more threatening and the land more difficult to maintain as the game progresses.
The touchscreen works with the DS’s limitations while offering nice, simplistic controls. The only awkward moments are when pressing a shoulder button, using the touchscreen and the direction pad to get an optional extra speed boost in the bouncy and fun-to-drive vehicles.
The main annoyances are inane, unskipable character dialogue and the lack of a more precise clock to avoid being forced back to home base at the end of a day when there are still uncollected Happy Points floating around the park.
Sure, the adorable idealism of ecological salvation through pretty flowers, making friends, collecting stickers and earning Happy Points might force out your inner 8-year-old girl; but it is surprisingly fun, challenging and addictive despite its near terminally cute premise.
If you are planning a trip to the mega mart for Halloween sweet treats this year, you might as well save a trip - and a bit of gas - and add this to your shopping list. (Chibi-Robo would certainly appreciate the environmental concern.)