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 Chibi-Robo
When the GameCubeís history is documented in years to come one of the aspects likely to be looked upon with fondness is the formatís abundance of quirky titles. From the early appearances of Pikmin and Super Monkey Ball through to Billy Hatcher and Viewtiful Joe, GameCube has provided a home to many off-kilter games. And now another one can be added to the list: take a bow Chibi-Robo!

Developer Skip are no stranger to quirkiness; their earlier offbeat title GiFTpiA was a master class in weirdness, a sort of trippy Animal Crossing in which your character, Pockle had to make amends to his local townsfolk after he missed his coming-of-age ceremony. For the first part of the game Pockleís face was hidden under a pixelated-blur until you appease the neighbours and are no longer regarded as a criminal. The game oozed weird from every pore and it was criminal that it was never released outside of Japan.

Thankfully, Nintendo have seen fit to give Chibi-Robo a PAL release and itís certainly a little treasure. Playing as the titular silver robot, your sole reason for being is to serve the family whoíve bought you (the Sandersons), and make their lives as easy as possible. Seeing as youíre little more than three inches tall this is no mean feat. As you complete some of the more mundane tasks, such as scrubbing the floor or picking up rubbish you slowly gain upgrades and open up new areas of the Hendersonís messy abode.

As he performs certain actions, Chibi uses up some of his battery power, meaning you will have to take time out occasionally to recharge via a mains socket or your display box. When he does so, Chibi picks up the plug at the end of his power cord (which bounces along behind you as you move around) and pops it into an available socket. You can receive several battery upgrades enabling you to travel further and explore the house a little more. Itís quite strange how this mechanic (complete a few tasks, recharge etc.) never becomes frustrating as it might in other games, but instead soon becomes a natural and accepted part of your routine.

Itís actually quite hard to pick any faults at all with this game as it is just so charming. The music in particular is very well created; Chibiís footsteps play a little tune as he trots along, changing depending on what surface you are on. Cleaning stains with your toothbrush also plays a nice little soft guitar riff as you tap the button and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Even the twee graphics, which in some places look like an early N64 game, are never obstructive, and the variety of design in the rooms around the house is a joy to see. As are the many characters you come across as the game unfolds. The Hendersonís themselves may be a bunch of slobs but their personalities are well captured as they give out more tasks for the put-upon Chibi.

And he isnít the only inanimate object with a life of its own; when the Sandersonís are out of sight all the toys in the house spring to life. This cute collection of characters is there to give out hints, new missions or may even give you special costumes to wear. Of course, not all of these Toys are friendly and will chase or shoot at Chibi, sapping his battery power if he gets too close. If his energy does happen to run out Chibi will reappear in his display box, sporting a little bandage and a sling under one arm. Itís so sweet you may be tempted to let the poor little fella run down his energy a few times just to see it.

Chibi is joined in his daily tasks by his manager, Telly Vision, who is basically just a tiny, talking TV. Telly gives you information on tasks in the house, as well as providing you with upgrades when you get enough points. They include extra battery life and the Chibi blaster which comes in very handy when the gameís main protagonists, the Spydorz, make their appearance. These tiny robots have infiltrated the Sandersonís home and later in the game it becomes Chibiís responsibility to keep them from harming the family.

The only downside to this game is the unfortunate fact that it probably wonít shift any great numbers but if you are feeling slightly jaded from all the same games being churned out at the moment this is the game for you. Doctors should prescribe Chibi-Robo to any gamer suffering from cynical depression and put a smile back on their mopey faces. This is proof positive that there are innovative games being released and instead of lamenting a lack of diversity in release schedules why not put your money where your mouth is and show the games industry you really care about originality.

8.5 out of 10

Buy Chibi-Robo now at Play.com
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