What an odd game.
Chibi-Robo, as its name suggests, is a cute, four-inch tall utilitarian robot and its main function is to help people. In this case, it’s been called to the home of Mr. Curator to help him start something called a NostalJunk Museum.
NostalJunk are objects from the past like buttons, t-shirts, CDs, and books, but how Chibi-Robo collects exhibits from the museum involves travelling far into the past and into your house. Using the 3DS camera, players are able to find NostalJunk in their own home, photograph them, and transport the objects into the game.
The result is a museum filled with you, but from some of the exhibits in mine I’m starting to realize I live a pretty mundane life – though I do have quite a few Twin Peaks related objects shimmed in there.
Chibi-Robo: Photo Finder, developed by Nintendo and Skip Ltd., is the third game in the series and probably the closest anyone can come to owning your own little robot.
Using the Nintendo 3DS’s camera is an essential part of Chibi-Robo: Photo Finder, but it can be a tricky process.
Players are tasked with helping Chibi-Robo find objects in your home to take back to Mr. Curator. Depending on how well you shoot the photo and if the object fits the shape, players get a rating and a digitized object to view inside of the museum.
Throughout the game, Chibi-Robo is able to buy new kinds of film for the NostalJunk Museum. Each film takes on a different shape and requires you to take photos of different objects. Players get about nine tries to get the photo right with perfect photos (rated at 100%) helping the museum find more visitors.
The game makes you stand up, dig through your shelves, closets, and refrigerator for commonplace objects the curator needs for his museum. While some players might groan when they realize they don’t actually own most of the items Chibi need to photograph, there’s an interesting proviso to that.
Rummaging through my house, I was finally able to find some green teabags deep chasm that is cupboard. Using the 3DS camera, I was able to line up the teabag, snap a photo, and help add to the museum. There was a sense of accomplishment seeing Chibi pull the object into the game, followed by a sense of guilt knowing I had to fix up the mess I created at home.
It’s rare to find a game that actually makes you do something in the real world.
While transporting objects from your home into the game is fun, it really makes you wish the 3DS had a better camera. Taking a photo of a can of pop should be a pretty simple task, but to take a high-rated one you require the lighting equivalent of the sun. Plus with the camera being a little blurry compared to most, the objects in the game can look a little low resolution.
Another problem, but this is a cool one, is there are quite a few objects in the game that are distinctly Japanese. For instance, while most households in Canada might have green tea bags, not all will. The game tasks you with finding these objects, which will get you off your butt and might help expand your gastronomic horizons.
How long is four inches?
It’s a question players are asked during one of Chibi-Robo: Photo Finder‘s mini-games, and a surprisingly difficult one to answer. Mini-games are used to earn Happy Points that in turn can be used to buy new kinds of film. The more film you get, the more mini-games open and the more opportunities Chibi has to earn Happy Points.
The mini-games can be confusing, but they’re also quite a bit of fun. By far, the hardest game is the one with Ketchsburg and Mostardin in the Summer Kitchen. These two living Ketchup and Mustard bottles ask players to identify and bring them ingredients from the nearby fridge. Question for you, what does pork belly look like?
If you’re a chef or had some recently, you might know. If you’re someone like me who has a steady diet of ramen noodles and processed foods, guessing ingredients can be frustrating, but also educational. Another game involves guessing approximate distances using a measuring tape. While it’s fun using your knowledge of distance to help gain Happy Points, it can feel a little silly having to play these frustratingly simple games over and over again.
Luckily there are a variety of games you’ll encounter as the game continues. As well, Chibi-Robo, also has the ability to walk around environments that he visits while playing games. There he can pick up trash, vacuum up dirt, and collect stickers that can be sent off for new kinds of film.
At the beginning of the game, Chibi-Robo starts off with only 50 watts, but overtime he’s able to earn batteries that will increase his power reserves. Watts allow him to do everything from running around to cleaning up. While you might feel a little confined at the start of the game with so little mileage, it slowly gets easier.
There’s also quite a sense of accomplishment in seeing the museum slowly fill up and visitors file in. Creating happiness has always been the focus of the series whether it’s helping Mr. Curator, a family in need of a helper, or keeping a park clean. It’s a happiness created through doing something, not something ham-fisted like Pharrell’s Happy performance at the Oscars last weekend.
The game makes Mr. Curator happy by fulfilling a desire, by actually actually helping one of his endeavours. And it makes the player happy by giving him or her a feeling of accomplishment, of doing something real in the game.
Few 3DS games attempt to use the little handheld’s camera. Developers know that most players enjoy simply playing games while sitting on the couch or on the way to work, but Skip Ltd. has always pushed boundaries and taken risks.
It’s certainly a risk relying on the camera on Nintendo’s handheld, but the result is a wacky game that tries really hard to entertain and succeeds with its wit and charm.