By Josh Speer / January 20th, 2014
Controls in the game are pretty simple and streamlined. You run around with the analog stick, using A to interact or talk with characters, as well as jump. By holding down A, you jump higher. Y is used to pick up your Chibi-Plug, and B is used to drop it or unplug from a socket. The L and R buttons rotate the camera left or right, while using the D-Pad allows for even more camera manipulation. The stylus is only used to select items that Chibi can equip, such as the vacuum and toothbrush. If at any time you forget the controls, a visual guide is always present in the upper left corner, simplifying things. I never had any trouble with the controls, except when I occasionally fell to my death from a high, narrow platform. Luckily, this doesn’t result in a game over, only in a major loss of Wattage.
Music in the game is as quirky and varied as the rest of the experience. Each and every mini-game has its own soundtrack, ranging from upbeat, Power Rangers-esque tracks to soothing outdoorsy tunes to fancy French notes. My absolute favorite was Drake Redcrest’s theme song, which was oddly catchy. Overall, I found all the music fantastic, and never got tired of it, even when I was exploring areas to find stray Happy Points and other goodies. Equally of note are the sound effects in the game. With the exception of Chibi himself, each and every character in the game has their own unique speech pattern, thankfully translated by captions, and these were glorious to listen to. From Telly’s excited rubber band rhythm sounds to the excited grunting of Drake Redcrest, they are all hilarious and somehow evocative of the characters. At one point, I wanted to compile them into a music CD and dance to it!
As far as graphics go, the game was very impressive, if inconsistent. Many of the environments are well-rendered, as are the objects and characters Chibi interacts with. However, some of the shadow effects look pixelated, and, sometimes, the NostalJunk you acquire is very rough. Besides this, the characters all look very polished and surprisingly realistic. Of special note is how well the game illustrates texture, from the sponge quality of Joshy Bear’s body to the ceramic look of Ketschburg and Mostardin. Chibi, in particular, looks very shiny, and somehow exudes a jaunty air as he runs around.
Unfortunately, not everything about the game was appealing. For one thing, the whole NostalDud feature was beyond frustrating. If a photo accuracy is anything less than 100%, there is a chance, no matter how small, that it will transform into a NostalDud instead of NostalJunk. I once had this happen with a 95% accurate picture. Worse, you can’t avoid this by saving beforehand, as after you take a picture, the game automatically saves. Another small frustration is the Job system. Though many of the minigames are fun, unlocking them is not. They are randomly displayed, and after you play through all the available ones, you have to wait till more are unlocked. Sometimes this would happen after exploring for a while, but more often than not, I would be forced to turn off my 3DS for a hour or so. Though the game never directly says this is required, I often found it to be the case.
Another large frustration was that the game never told me that NostalJunk displayed in the exhibits doesn’t all have to be unique. As the game progresses, new film becomes much more expensive, and between that and occasional lack of jobs, I was having a hard time unlocking new film. It was only by a fluke that I realized I could have two of the same type of item on display. Had I known this earlier, the game probably would have taken a few hours less to complete. A final, minor annoyance was how Telly, Chibi’s polite smartphone companion, finds it necessary to remind you every time you have squirreled away enough Happy Points to purchase film. He also chimes in when you acquire them by small tasks, even though the game uses a counter to keep track of how many you have.
Overall, I found the game to be very entertaining. I was pretty much constantly charmed during the entirety of my 20-hour playthrough. The universe of Chibi-Robo was unique, pretty and fun. If the camera wasn’t so difficult to use, and, if a couple of features had been better explained and implemented, it would have been a much better experience. That said, I would venture Chibi-Robo! Photo Finder is a game that anyone with a 3DS should look into. For only $9.99, you get a great portable experience. It’s not perfect, but it does most things right. I can only hope Nintendo comes out with more portable gems in the future.
Review copy purchased by reviewer.
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