Wednesday 24 May 2006
Robots who love doing household chores are most peoples' dream come true, although the closest we seem to have got so far are ones that imitate dogs or serve us drinks in swanky bars. Chibi-Robo - who you play as - is the future. He's a tiny robot, with a body like a TARDIS for storing sweet wrappers and wastepaper, and a love of scrubbing away at carpet stains.
Life as a house robot is a fairly demanding but rewarding experience. Your overall goal is to earn happy points by making your owners content. Being the lazy slobs they are, that's as easy as mopping up their spillages and fetching them a cookie when they're hungry.
The more you do for the humans, the higher you rise in the robot rankings, with your manufacturers sending you prize incentives for being good. But as well as interacting and doing things for people, at night you do the same for the toys that come to life in the household when no-one's around to see them.
Chibi-Robo is an incredibly simplistic game to play. All of the action takes place inside the house and garden, the rooms are pretty sparse and there's not much going on.
A typical day would see you moseying on out to the kitchen, finding a toothbrush (to clean up the dog's paw-prints), trotting back into the living room, finding a photo for some egg soldiers, returning to your Chibi-house, buying yourself a new Chibi-Blaster and firing a hole in the patio window.
It's a low-pressure game to be played at a leisurely pace. It's made even more leisurely by the fact that although Chibi's manufacturers could have created a super intelligent, self-aware robot, they've given him the top speed of an ailing pensioner and the battery power of a knackered Nokia.
Every few minutes, your battery power starts to run low and you need to quickly pick up your plug and shove it in the nearest wall socket to recharge. It's a smart idea but one that constantly gets in the way of exploring, as do the day/night cycles that warp you abruptly back to the Chibi-house at the end of each one.
But accept Chibi-Robo for the sedate but endearing adventure that it is and you'll find plenty to enjoy. The way Chibi is three inches tall and has to make his way around the house by pulling out drawers to stand on, climbing shoelaces and traversing pieces of cutlery is well done.
Plus, the game does reveal more depth once you've stocked up on gadgets and need to search for ways to use them. The characters you meet in the game are genuinely humorous, too, and there are plenty of neat touches - like the way you can dress Chibi up in a range of outfits, with what he's wearing affecting how other characters respond to you.
Above: Experimenting with different outfits and watching how characters react is fun
With its simplistic graphics and gameplay and retro plinky plonk sound, it doesn't even try to compete with the likes of Pikmin 2 in terms of scale or visuals, but is equally as cute.
While it's occasionally pleasing, then, we can enjoy completing household-based fetch quests at such a pedestrian pace for a short time.