Sunday, 9 February 2014

Chibi-Robo II

  Chibi-Robo: Photo Finder is a game played out on very tiny counter tops, thus reducing a game about a 4 inch tall robot to one about an appropriately sized protagonist on a series of stylized stages.  I hesitate to call this platforming, as Chibi’s jump is vestigial.  The point of the counter tops is … I don’t know.  Perhaps to contain the action.  Perhaps to ensure players don’t get lost.  Perhaps to feel boxed in, despite being open to the air. 

  Coming from Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol, it is very limiting!  The previous entry offered wide open spaces that Chibi could customize, running amok amidst flowers and toys bigger than Chibi!  It felt like it worked with its concept, turning a tiny space into a grand adventure.  Photo-Finder is all about the photo’s, all about them, and the experience feels reduced and diminished because of that focus.

  Getting around from desktop to desktop is simplified, with means the fun was taken out of it, by means either a teleporting device, or a toy helicopter.  Again, comparing unfavorably with Park Patrol, the helicopter is piloted for you by Telly, the smart-phone inspired character who contacts Chibi wirelessly with useless status reports that interrupt the flow of whatever Chibi is doing, and who bookends all file and software functions like saving with more text.  This is too bad though, as I was going to comment that Telly is much more user-friendly than Chet of Park Patrol, who did much the same but used an obnoxiously sharp squeak noise for his voice and apologized profusely for everything.  I much prefer Telly, but the design intension is refined, not changed.
Telly, photo by BommerCannyBoskov
Chet, photo by ColourH4AR7

  Anyway, helicopter.  Park Patrol gave Chibi several tools and vehicles for getting around the park quickly, everything from old bikes to ride quickly, to installing underground sewers to cross the park in a hurry, to a roadster friend, Chassy, who will come when called after Chibi completes her story events.  Using the vehicles presented new challenges, like dragging the peddles around the touch screen in circles.  They could be annoying in their design, but their designs permitted different flows, something as simple as pedalling faster to reach a destination faster, or slower to saunter through the fields of flowers.  None of this is in Photo-Finder, as destinations are reached instantaneously and effortlessly, with no skill to display in the task.  It has the effect of making the whole world feel abbreviated, making Chibi’s world feel very small indeed.

  Arrival is much more focused as well.  Chibi can venture to the various desktops either to perform some kind of job, which means that he will be called on to put the majority of his energy into their tasks, or to explore, Chibi-vacuum in tow.  While the desktops leave nothing hidden, frequently friends like Super Geotron X and Mostardin and Ketschburg are present with small quizzes.  Completing them can earn Chibi some extra happiness points, but if he is there primarily for happiness points, he is going to want to use the Chibi-vacuum to clean up the paste-like dust that is spread about.  Chibi-Robo cannot return saddled with trash, but he can dispose of it with , a talking trash receptacle. 

  Looking forward, Photo-Finder has clearly set itself up to deliver more content through the same means.  Chibi can explore the museum by porting about, can earn happiness points by doing small chores or quizzes, and can take jobs working for the toys he meets, earning still more happiness points.  There is certainly room for more toys to meet and jobs to do, but so far, most friends only ask Chibi to do one thing each.  The only catch to this is that, at least 2 days in, I haven’t figured out when and under what circumstances the jobs are unlocked!  They may appear daily, but I’ve seen the job list reset to empty under mysterious circumstances.  Save scumming is also to be avoided, as the game saves promptly after every result. 

  The game, as it exists in the virtual world, isn’t very robust at all.  But Skip and Nintendo did bring another feature to the table, which has just now popped into my Chibi-computer.  The Chibi-Robo community is called on to vote on favorite NostalJunk, and whole challenges are organized around it.  NostalJunk, and the camera, is the new draw for Chibi-Robo: Photo Finder, and so very little of the game makes sense absent this new mechanic. 

  And that seems a great place to leave off.  Tune in next time (even though I really don’t know when “next time” will be) for a full aesthetic break-down of the camera, including why I hate it so so so much!  Spoiler: the answers are in no way shocking! 

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