Thank you Chibi-Robo!
It's a delightful game, and a real joy to play. Chibi-Robo is a little helper robot purchased by Mr. Sanderson as a birthday gift for his daughter Jenny. Jenny wears a frog outfit, and speaks only in Frog, much to the dismay of her mother. Mr. Sanderson is unemployed, and Mrs. Sanderson is at her wit's end with her husband's rampant spending on toys (mostly Space Hunter Drake Redcrest paraphanelia). Chibi-Robo's job, at least initially, is to run around the house tidying things up: throwing away the trash that the Sanderson family leaves strewn about, wiping up muddy foot prints from the dog, and removing crayon stains left by Jenny.
The story quickly develops into a rather more interesting, and complicated, plot. The family's dysfunction is handled surprisingly well, and the tension grows pretty naturally as Mrs. Sanderson grows ever more frustrated. It's a surprisingly sophisticated family dynamic for a video game, and I'm really keen to see how it all unfolds (and of course whether little Chibi-Robo can keep the family together).
It's a rare console game that really catches my fancy. Most GameCube games -- even my long-time favorites in the Metroid franchise -- usually wear me out after about 30 minutes of playing, after which I need an extended break to regain interest. Chibi-Robo has me glued ot my seat, and keeps me coming back at every opportunity. The game plays is extremely easy, the story fun, and the game structure is divided into 15 minute segments. In theory, one could easily play for 15 minutes, save the game, and walk away. This almost never happens for me, though, and before I know it I've been playing for nearly four hours. I went to bed last night at almost 2 AM, so engrossed in Chibi-Robo I was.
What's more, the game is really fun to watch! Chibi-Robo is darned cute, and the animations are really well done. This morning, the twins watched me play for about 2 hours. Normally, the twins watching me play a game is maddening, whether because the game story is sufficiently complex that they can't simply pick it up in the middle, or the game requires some level of real concentration on my part and their incessant questions break my focus. Chibi-Robo, though, is easy to play, so I have no problems carrying on conversation, or providing exposition, whilst running around the Sanderson home doing my chores. The twins really got into the story, and expressed real concern over what would happen to the family. They both provided a lot of helpful suggestions as to where I should go next, or how I might solve a particular problem. I strongly suspect that one or both of them will give the game a try on their own in the very near future, such was their level of interest.
Now if only we had a real Chibi-Robo to scurry around our house and help us tidy up!