The first Chibi-Robo went, for the most part, under the radar. The GameCube title was a niche hit with endearing characters and addictive gameplay. So, for the sequel, Nintendo wanted to reach a larger audience, so they released it the same week as Phantom Hourglass and made it only available at Wal-Mart.
After playing Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol, it’s a bit easier to understand why Nintendo buried it under larger releases: it’s not a better title than the first one. The quirky, lovable family the first game was based around has been replaced by… well… nothing. Instead of helping a family get a clean house, Chibi now has to grow flowers and turn a park green again. The new setting brings with it elements of Harvest Moon and, strangely enough, Roller Coaster Tycoon. Watering flowers is important, and Chibi gets happiness points for each visitor that comes.
Some of the changes in this game just seem arbitrary. Now happiness points aren’t exclusively for buying things, and must occasionally be converted to Watts to charge Chibi’s battery. This seems to have little purpose other than to make the game take longer, and the same could be accomplished by increasing the items’ prices. Also, the game seems to force use of the touch screen. The issue, while not uncommon on the platform, is still frustrating. Somehow the flowers multiply by dancing to music, and players must consistently turn a turntable-like thing on the bottom screen to successfully get the flowers to groove.
Not all things have been scrapped, though. There’s still some charming interaction with various toys, though it makes little sense for them to be wandering in a park or sitting on a city sidewalk. The new sidekick is much like the old one, and Chibi himself feels pleasantly familiar.
All in all, Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol isn’t a bad game. Though it doesn’t live up to the GameCube original, there’s enough here to keep fans busy for a little while. Without the Nintendo name on it, it would be a sleeper hit, but as it is, people expect more from a first-party title. Still, if you’re a fan of the genre, make sure to give it enough playtime to prove itself.