|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Skip||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 2, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Despite an ongoing household boycott of Wal-Mart, the sole opportunity to obtain a much desired copy of Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol presented a magnetic pull (temporarily) strong enough to break all mental barriers erected as a result of a fearsome personal loathing for the box-store behemoth.
It was by fortuitous happenstance that I returned unscathed from the bowels of the beast - with soul intact no less - clutching in sweaty palm the object which inspired such a base journey to the threshold of hell. Was a game about an environmentally conscious four-inch tall robot charged with tending the grounds of a fledgling park and bringing happiness to the world worth glaring into the murk depths of the abyss? Ultimately yes.
Players who remained loyal to the Game Cube until its demise were likely to have taken note of the original Chibi-Robo, a mysteriously addictive title which proved directing a cute robot to do virtual housework for countless hours was actually far more preferable to cleaning one's own abode. Helping Chibi-Robo tend to the needs of the Sandersons while exploring their home and interacting with its other bizarre inhabitants was an imaginative, charming endeavor. Park Patrol is a somewhat different animal altogether, yet it is no less entrancing.
Things get going just as Citrusoft Robotics completes development of a new environmentally-friendly Chibi-Robo prototype, sending scores of the little robotic helpers out by the truckload to parks worldwide. Dropped unceremoniously at the entryway to a particularly barren park, Chibi-Robo must revitalize the public recreational space by growing flowers and making improvements to turn it from a polluted dust bowl to an extravagant green wonderland. The story takes a while to develop, progressing in small bits here and there, but it's definitely interesting. As before, the Chibi-House serves as your center of operations. Inside you'll be able to recharge your battery, unlock new items, make design adjustments to your park, and gain upgrades. It's also where you'll find your new advisor Chet, a woefully housebound robot with amusing neurotic tendencies and a knack for giving redundant advice. Chet is useful in other ways: he can convert happy points into clean watts, which can be used to recharge Chibi-Robo or purchase helpful upgrades.
Bright color-schemes and hyper upbeat graphics featured in the DS spin-off go well beyond the cheerful tones of the first Chibi-Robo title. The mixture of strange kiddie colors and neon tones reach an almost nauseatingly exuberant level, yet they somehow manage to work at the same time. Other than a little blinding at times, the visuals are quite good. The cast of zany characters you'll run into and eventually befriend is equally colorful. There are caffeinated penguins, a French marionette, a plastic tree, a solitary Free Ranger, and others, each with their own distinct quirks and personalities. Character voices retain the same silly garbled style of the first game, and some of the lighthearted musical sound effects return as well.
In Park Patrol, happiness is a renewable energy resource primarily garnered from gardening and rejuvenating dead patches of sandy earth. Initially, the park starts out with only a few swaths of tilled soil where flowers can safely bloom. Armed with a water dropper and a sweet boombox, Chibi-Robo must nurture the existing flowers back to health. This is done by spinning records on the touch screen with the stylus and throwing an impromptu dance party. Keeping the music steady will give you a high score, causing the flowers to bloom and shoot buds out into the nearby soil. Watering the buds will make new flowers grow and score more happy points. Moving around is simple d-pad work, but most other controls involve well-implemented and clever touch features. You'll be manually pumping the water, interacting with objects, steering vehicles, and pedaling along, among other tasks.
To make things interesting, there are a few obstacles to overcome while working on park cleanup efforts. As the story progresses, the game's antagonists, Miasmo and Sergeant Smogglor, destroyers of parks and patrons of pollution, unleash a near-daily stream of flower raids. They'll send smoglings - who look like walking eight balls with clown faces - forth to infest flowers and run amok. Spraying them with a stead stream of water will cause them to pop. If you don't take care of them immediately they'll spread throughout the park polluting flowers. Any flower which has been corrupted by the smoglings will turn black and die at the end of the day. Since continually increasing your flower population is integral to your park's progression, dispatching smoglings becomes a routine chore.