Okaeri! ChibiRobo Happy Richy Oosouji, or Welcome back! ChibiRobo: The Happy and Rich Big Clean, is the third ChibiRobo game and the second on the Nintendo DS. It is a follow-up to the original GameCube game (also now available on the Wii). The youngest member of the original family in the game, Jenny, has now grown up and has a child of her own, Keith. They live together with their dog in a modest-sized house that is in dire need of some cleaning and redecoration. This is where ChibiRobo steps in.
After somehow managing to save up enough money to buy ChibiRobo, Jenny charges it with the task of cleaning the house. No small feat for such a tiny robot, especially considering it only gets a vacuum cleaner to start with. ChibiRobo can only carry a certain amount of electricity, known as Chibi Watts, and the Chibi House can only store a certain amount of – you guessed it – House Watts. ChibiRobo can recharge either in the Chibi House, or from any of the plug sockets dotted about the house. Moving around or doing anything makes ChibiRobo use up its Chibi Watts and, if they drop to zero, then ChibiRobo cannot move. It's somewhat akin to dying.
To get more House Watts, ChibiRobo must either vacuum up dust and empty the canister into the rubbish bin, or pick up rubbish that's lying around and throw that in. The number of items that ChibiRobo can hold is substantial and need not be worried about, whereas the amount of dust that can be sucked up with the vacuum is limited by the number of canisters that have been collected. When using the vacuum cleaner, ChibiRobo is also faced with another problem – it must be plugged into a wall socket, and the power cord only extends so far. Although it is a mite annoying when that last little bit of dust is just out of reach, it does mean the player has to go elsewhere to finish filling the canister. Without these restrictions, players might rush through the game and not appreciate it. There is also a time limit to each half of the day so the initial days seem to go by too quickly to get enough done.
As players of the previous games could probably surmise, by doing more cleaning, ChibiRobo can earn a greater capacity for storing Chibi Watts, a longer power cord so it can vacuum a greater area, and longer half-days. These rewards come with a greater Chibi Ranking, the position that ChibiRobo holds according to the number of Happy and Richy that have been collected. "Happy" and "Richy" are symbolised by little pink or gold hearts, and represent happiness and the feeling of having money respectively. These appear after cleaning a patch of dirt or buying something for the house. The higher ChibiRobo's rank gets, the better the rewards received, and the easier it becomes to get more cleaning done in a half-day.
ChibiRobo's movements can be almost completely controlled using the stylus, the exception being the L/R buttons which are used to twirl the power cord and turn the vacuum on or off. Either the D-pad or the ABXY buttons serve as the camera controls, thus covering lefties and righties. These controls cannot be changed, so those who prefer the D-pad have no option.
As ChibiRobo goes about its cleaning, it also meets different toys around the house. They all have unique characters and histories, from the wrestler to the toy shark, the pig cop to the bird alarm clock. Each one plays a part in the story, be it giving a new outfit to ChibiRobo, or a vehicle, or simply enabling it to access a different area by removing an obstacle. They fit in well with their surroundings and none feel like they have been simply crowbarred in for convenience.
While not specifically targeted at children, the visuals are bright, vibrant and colourful, and all the different rooms in the house are individually coordinated to fit with the character or usage. Rooms can be customised by ordering the desired colour/style of furniture, wallpaper, etc. All these items are ordered via the TV Shopping channel in the living room of Jenny's house... After the family has saved up enough for the TV, anyway. Money can be made by sifting through dust from the vacuum cleaner canister and selling the items found. Finding the balance between using the dust for Chibi Watts and using it for cash will make the player think a bit more carefully about what they do. To begin with, the player is limited to the living room and the kitchen; as they interact with other characters and progress through the story, more areas become accessible and ChibiRobo's task become even bigger.
One slightly less child-oriented part of the game is also something that crops up in many games with little or no reason – a casino. Casino chips that have been found can be used here to play games and buy items like the aeroplane and tuxedo outfit. The playable games are Blackjack, Poker, Roulette and an odd, dare-like game, where the loser is the one who pumps a balloon up too much and it bursts. Time still passes at the regular rate while these are being played and it is all too easy to spend the whole half-day gambling.
The gameplay is easy to get to grips with, although it might be viewed as overly simple by those who have not played any in the series. It still has both the satisfaction of achieving personal targets, i.e. 100% in a particular room, and that "just one more go" urge.
There is enough variety and cuteness to keep the player interested for at least the full length of the main story, if perhaps not after that. It's an enjoyable experience from start to finish and one that Nintendo will hopefully bring to Western players sometime in 2010.