January 10th, 2011
The goal in Chibi Robo:Park Patrol is simple, fill a derelict park with 999 flowers. The means is simple also:
- go out into the park and find an empty patch of soil
- use sprayer to water seedlings into flowers
- play music to white flowers to send out a flurry of new seeds
- rinse and repeat until patch of soil is exhausted and then find another patch
Basically, the player repeats this process until they reach the magic number.
The climb to 999 flowers is managed by a set of constraints and punctuated by a series of events which flesh out Chibi Robo:PP beyond the skeleton procedure presented above. Below is a list of the most notable constraints:
- Chibi’s limited battery which forces him back to base/a power point for a recharge
- Chibi must rest back at base come night time
- flowers only grow in fertile soil
- there are only a few patches of fertile soil to begin with (more must be built by recruiting and paying friends to do construction jobs)
- friends must be first found lying around the town area in need of charging
- friends can only build one item before they need to be re-recruited
- only 3 friends can be recruited at the one time
- only 30 flowers can be planted in a patch of fertile soil
- smogling (those black walking balls) attacks which turn your flowers black and subsequently perish overnight
- the Chibi PC occasionally blows up and requires a new board
Events are largely story-based and involve either fending off smoggling attacks in the park by the villain Miasmo or going into town to explore and meet with NPCs.
As the player restores the health of the park, they are rewarded with heart points, a currency for each environmentally friendly action, which can, in turn, be used back at base to buy items that lighten the above restrictions. For example, purchasing a larger battery means that Chibi can go out for longer ventures in the park without being forced back to an earth socket so quickly. These restriction-reducing aids come into shop after growing a preset amounts of flowers. Growing flowers is proportional to the happy points made (as most of your happy points come from growing flowers) and since you need the spend happy points to loosen the restrictions, the more flowers you grow, the less restrictions the player has to grapple with. Chibi Robo: PP‘s pace therefore resembles an exhale as progression (flowers) is relative to the relaxing of restrictions.
I specifically use the word “exhale” because the restrictions imposed on the player needlessly impede the enjoyment of the game. Right at the beginning, Chibi only has a 50 volt battery, meaning that most instances of play are 2-3 minutes long. So, in one day the player is forced back to base maybe 3 times, each time filling the gameplay with down time while you hold up to walk along the most effective linear path home and running through the same repetitive dialogue by the base’s overly talkative computer system, being asked to save and what not. It’s downright tedious and perhaps a little demeaning too. You just can’t wait to get that 100 volt battery, but even once you do it’s not long before you bump up against the same drama.
If we remove all limitations, it’s plain to see that the daily life of a Chibi Robo is a monotonous one: the formulaic set of mini games listed at the top of the page. Spray water, play music and repeat. There’s no nuance, variation or depth to this busy work, besides adding music tracks to your tape player. But even this already tedious process of repetition is prolonged by a series of questionable and abstract constraints that seem only in place from hinder the player. Although there are options for friends to build new structures to customise the park, there is no incentive to do so as wasting heart points on these projects gets in the way of development.
Perhaps the irony of it all is that while the park environment develops throughout the game, the internal environment of the player’s soul is depleting amongst the ceaseless busy work.