['Roboto-chan!' is a fortnightly column by Ollie Barder which covers videogames that feature robots and the pop-cultural folklore surrounding them. This week's column covers a little known game that pre-dates the likes of Chibi Robo by a good few years]

boku_pom1.jpgThe year was 2002 and you need to understand that Japan in November is cold, very cold indeed. At the time, the only thing between pneumonia and me was a faulty kotatsu and a kerosene heater that doubled as the fire spewing gates of Hell (it was more of an anti-personnel heater than anything usable for people without fire retardant gear). One way to take my mind off imminent hypothermia was to make a brief trip down to my local games shop and browse the surprisingly expansive collection (whilst loitering next to an electric heater obviously).

The next game I was predominantly focused upon was that of Armored Core 3 Silent Line but seeing that it wasn't available until January the following year, I needed something mechanical to keep me busy. That something jumped out amongst the mess of the store's shelf "organisation" (the owner mixed all the games up from various platforms, a nightmare for actually trying to find something you wanted but great if you just liked to browse). The shop keeper told me that they had something that had arrived a few months earlier that I probably would like but couldn't remember what it was called or where he'd put it.

The following box art caught my attention and I showed it to the shop keeper, to which he responded "that's the one!". I decided to part with the required cash and take it back to a loving, though very cold, home.

boku_cover.jpg

Its name was Boku wa Chiisai (literally translated as "I am small") and it turned out to be a rather wonderful little game. The cover of a little robot clinging to a lampshade was immensely endearing but the premise of controlling a super dinky robot within a Japanese household was an interesting one.

boku_pom4.jpgInteresting because most mecha games feature massive robots that are gigantic weapons of some kind. This game was almost the antithesis of that and had a tiny protagonist who really wasn't that potent at all (he actually got left behind, so if anything he was the robotic equivalent of the kid with braces and thick rimmed glasses).

Pom to the rescue!

The game was peddled as an action adventure but it's more a platformer with puzzle based leanings. The story is based around the Space Force Petitmen, who are cute little alien robots that act as a space based police force. They are trying to track down a rather nasty Space Pirate, called Silver, who looks like some kind of demonic octopus. The game's protagonist, Pom, is left behind on this mission because he's a trainee but it isn't long before his comrades call for help and Pom rushes to their rescue (I did a little video of the opening to those that are curious).

Upon reaching Earth, Pom finds out that the inhabitants are actually giants compared to the Petitmen and that Silver has placed powerful explosives around the house. It isn't long before the explosives detonate and fracture time, sending Pom back a day giving him enough time to thwart Silver and save his friends.

boku_pom2.jpgThe game isn't a bad one really; each time you find one of the Petitmen they lend you their abilities allowing you to traverse the massive house with greater ease whilst also dispatching with the Space Pirates infestation. In addition, Pom has to find "Time Pieces" so that he can return to his time otherwise he gets stuck Groundhog Day-style.

It's a lot of fun to play and the story is quite amusing and threaded nicely, with each of the human family members having their own little plot. There's also a nice addition of the retro-styled Time Patrol, who turn up later on to find out what has fractured the timeline.

As a game it has its faults but whilst the camera can be a little quirky at times the pacing of the game doesn't cause any real problems in this area (this isn't the kind of game that requires ninja response times on the part of the player).

The only downfall I can think of is that the game wasn't really marketed at all and consequently didn't do that well, which is also why few people even know of its existence.

It's a shame that such a sweet and enjoyable game didn't really find many owners but I can personally say that something good came of it; playing this made me forget the cold Japanese winter and that's no easy feat.

[Ollie Barder is a freelance journalist who's written for The Guardian, appeared on BBC Radio 4 and contributed to Japanese mecha artbooks. He lives at home with an ever growing collection of Japanese die-cast robot toys and a very understanding wife.]