Monday, October 06, 2008

The Vault: Chibi Robo

Title: Chibi Robo
Format: Gamecube
Genre: Action/Adventure
Expect to pay: £15 - £40

As fantastic as I most definitely think Nintendo is, they do tend to wheel out the same old mascots over and over again. How many games have you seen Mario in lately, and Link is almost as bad. For that reason it's great to see them developing a new IP every once and a while. On the Gamecube, they did this with the Pikmin franchise, and they also did it with Chibi Robo, an enthralling and charming adventure game starring a diminutive, cute (chibi) robot whose job it is to clean up the Sanderson household and help out any poor souls (human or otherwise) in need.

When you start the game your repertoire of abilities is severely limited. You have a toothbrush, a built in chibi-copter and that's pretty much about it. The capacity of your battery is extremely low and therefore you won't be able to stray very far from your Chibi House before your juice will start to run out and you will have to return or seek out a power socket. To remedy this you need to earn happy points - these are cashed in back at the Chibi House and when you bank certain amounts you will earn a new higher capacity battery, thus allowing you to explore further and further into the house. Your pal, Telly Vision, with his freaky cross eyed stare, will explain everything to you.

At the start of the game these happy points come mainly from doing housework - either by cleaning up stains using your toothbrush, or by picking up stray sweet wrappers or biscuit crumbs. I know, it doesn't sound like fun does it? But it is thanks to the brilliant and charming way it's implemented. As Chibi walks around different musical notes emanate from the floor, and you also produce other little riffs when you use your tools such as the toothbrush.

As well as the Sanderson family (which include a little girl who spends most of her life dressed up as, and pretending to be, a frog) there are many toys around the house, all of which have a life of their own and most of which have more than their fair share of problems that need sorting out. There's a Buzz Lightyear style space ranger, a princess, a pirate and many more. They all have their own areas of the house, such as the living room, the kitchen, the basement, the attic, the parents bedroom, the kids room and the back garden, and exploring everywhere and doing everything will take a considerable amount of time - especially when you consider that you only have a limited amount of time before that particular section of the day comes to an end. The day is divided up in to several sections and once the time limit expires you are automatically returned to the Chibi House.

Because Chibi Robo was released very late in the life span of the Gamecube, it was largely overlooked as most people had already moved on to one of the next generation systems. It is a great shame that the game didn't do as well as it deserved, but it has managed to get a sequel on the DS, Chibi Robo: Park Patrol which is equally as good. The game can be quite expensive though, on ebay recent auctions have gone for as little as £15 and as much as £40. If you can find it at the lower end of the price scale I would recommend it.

Here's Chibi, staring wistfully into a cup of coffee.

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