If you’re as bohemian and laid-back as many of us are at SPOnG Towers, you’ll find that life’s too short to be doing trivial things like putting sweet wrappers in the bin. Dog run around the house with muddy paws? We’ll sort it later. And we would most definitely employ a miniature army consisting of hard-boiled eggs if we could. The Sandersons are one such family, and on a day like daughter Jenny’s birthday, no present is more important than a Chibi Robo! These tiny little robotic guys will clean up your messes, scrub the floors and still find time to pocket your cash and build bizarre little items with it.
Yes we’ve got Chibi-mania here, and with the Gamecube’s final bow imminent it’s great to find a game with more charm than a box of Lucky Charms (we’re not that good with analogies, as you’ve probably noticed). You play as Chibi Robo, a miniature robot that performs menial tasks on behalf of the lazy Sandersons, in an attempt to gain ‘Happy Points’. This is the ideal future; where robots aim to serve humans by cleaning, rather than starting a revolution or helping endorse product placements with Will Smith.
The game is unequivocally cheesy and completely proud of that fact, from the so-corny-it's-kinda-heartwarming premise (“...Chibi Robo works to help the Sanderson family get the most out of life, and find happiness”) to the crude graphics and presentation. You could be forgiven for thinking Chibi Robo looked like an advanced Nintendo 64 game in places, but the overall presentation and animation of the four-inch robot and his companion, Telly Vision (an emotional floating TV – get the name?) put pay to all of that. Much like Katamari Damacy, this is a game where graphics are subordinate to sublime gameplay, despite the fact that such appearances actually do the style of the game justice.
Your work takes place over day and night, with an adjustable timeframe limiting how long you have before the end of each segment – different events occur during different hours, so something you achieve or complete during the night may well affect something during the daytime as well. The game world is the Sanderson’s house, so there’s plenty of exploration and adventure for a tiny robot such as Chibi.
Unfortunately your travel is dependant on your battery power. Outside of your recharge house, standing still will slowly decrease your battery charge, while running and doing other tasks will lose a lot more energy. And at least to begin with, you won’t be able to journey far without needing a recharge – the poor little chap collapses into a heap if he happens to have run out of juice. Luckily – and somewhat charmingly – Chibi Robo has a plug coming out of his backside, which he can plug into any wall outlet and recharge to avoid the constant threat of battery death.
Getting ‘Happy Points’ can be done in various ways – you can pick up rubbish lying on the floor and throw them in the bin, you can scrub floors or you can approach the many characters (living and stuffed) and fulfil missions and requests made by them. And you’ll meet some crazy characters, from ‘normal’ human beings (we say ‘normal’: the Sanderson’s 7 year old daughter thinks she’s a frog) to toys that come alive during the evening. Our favourite example of the latter is Space Hunter Drake Redcrest, a kind of Buzz Lightyear chap that pretends to know what he’s talking about but clearly doesn’t. Hush, Chibi Robo, it is not your place to say anything untoward. Not that you can anyway, but oh well.