My mom and I had a bonding moment the other day, when we were discussing cleaning. I’d spent much of the past few weeks cleaning my apartment—the kitchen, the bathroom, the floors, etc.—only to have it immediately crapped on when my roommates returned. I was livid, and I told her so.
“Try living like that for 20 years,” she told me.
If I’d played Chibi-Robo! Back in the Day, when I still lived at home and crapped up the place on a regular basis, I might’ve seen my mom’s point-of-view before now—after all, this GameCube game is all about cleaning up after a bunch of slobs.
As Chibi-Robo, a tiny, tiny cleaning robot, you earn “happy points” for completing such tasks as scrubbing away muddy shoe-prints, picking up trash, feeding goldfish, and making Mommy and Daddy happy so they won’t get a divorce. You see, Mom’s not happy with Dad, because Dad just spent all this money on a geeky little robot (aka, you), despite that the family’s massively in debt. You’ve gotta get the parents back together and prove you’re not as worthless as Mom thinks, and you’ve also gotta get the deadbeat dad to stop playing with his toys all the time and actually help out around the house.
While doing that you’re also looking to earn as many happy points as robotly possible, so that you can move up the Chibi-rankings and become the greatest Chibi-Robo in the known universe.
Happy points earned can be cashed in for upgrades to your robot. Specifically, you can lengthen his battery capacity so he doesn’t die on you after only a few minutes. You see, much like a cell phone, Chibi-Robo needs to be recharged every now and again. Nothing particularly bad happens if he dies on you, however—you lose a little bit of money (also earned by doing chores) and have to witness a cutscene in which your manager, a flying robot named “Tele Vision”, cries out a literal waterfall, but that’s about it.
If picking up candy wrappers and scrubbing away stains isn’t your game, fear not; there are plenty of other ways to earn happy points in Chibi-Robo. There are tons of sidequests, which lead to such great real-life moments as not being able to hang out with your real-life friends because you’ve just gotta complete the “put all the crayons away” minigame or the “get the mummy doll and the princess doll to fall in love” subplot. This is the kind of game you’ll want to play well after completion because there’s so much more left to do.
And that’s the gist of the game. It sort of controls like a platformer, though without the worst part of a platformer—the actual platforming. Most of Chibi-Robo’s actions are context-sensitive. As in, you’ll walk up to an open drawer, and a little icon will pop up saying you can hop up on it. You press the action button and Chibi hops right up without any further trouble. It makes things far easier than, say, every other platformer ever, because you don’t have to worry so much about missing your jump by a millimeter and falling 3,000 miles to your doom.
Some parts of this pseudo-platformer seem out-of-place. I’m thinking specifically of the parts where you have to blast little deathbots to little tiny pieces, which—and this could just be me— seems a bit off in a game about cleaning. You’ll be happily scrubbing away at a stain with Dad’s superhero toothbrush when a horde of deathbots rises out of the floor and tries to smother your cute little robot to death. It’s not entirely pointless—you recycle pieces of the broken deathbots into useful contraptions—but the developers could’ve just as easily let you recycle trash into contraptions instead. Shooting doesn’t have to be in every game, guys. Calm yourselves.
The voice-acting in Chibi-Robo is unnerving at first, and…well…it never really stops being unnerving, actually. It consists of what I can only assume is regular human speech reversed, giving you the impression that if you played it backwards, you’d probably be told very rude things. Not that I’ve ever tried, or anything.
Chibi-Robo is, without a doubt, far too cutesy for some. Or most, really, unless you happen to be a fourteen-year-old girl who’s built up defenses for colorful graphics, Full House-esque “aww” moments, and characters that are gosh-darn loveable. If you can wade through the adorableness of it all you’ll find one of the best GameCube games to-date; but most are likely to skip over Chibi-Robo based on its looks alone, which is a shame.