Chibi-Robo’s latest adventure takes a different turn; will this small robot meet with huge success?
Chibi-Robo has alway been a bit of an obscure Nintendo character. Though he’s been around since the Gamecube era, the 6-inch-tall metal man has only starred in 3 (not including this one) games that, although very unique and enjoyable, have amassed an amount of popularity akin to the size of Chibi-Robo himself. Despite this Nintendo is determined to keep Chibi alive and, in an attempt to do so, has decided to steer the Chibi-Robo! series in a new (although familiar) direction in Chibi’s latest game: Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash begins with the world facing a new crisis; the disappearance of Earth’s resources at the hands of a gang of pint-sized prankster aliens. Chibi-Robo, who was busy cleaning a space station with a toothbrush at the time of the initial alien attacks soon finds out what’s going on thanks to his computer-like companion Telly and they soon speed off toward toward Earth in order to solve the problem at-hand.
While the previous Chibi-Robo! games consisted of a playful mixture of exploration, puzzle-solving, daily maintenance of Chibi’s environment, and character development, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is a platformer in its entirety. The mechanics of Zip Lash are relatively straightforward with a few unique spins here and there. Aside from the basic running and jumping, Chibi-Robo makes use of his bulky-yet-adorable cord and plug in an all-new way. Chibi’s “tail” is no longer there just for charging up Watts; it now serves as both a weapon and a grappling hook. Chibi’s plug can be used in two ways, the first is the Whip Lash. The Whip Lash allows Chibi-Robo to quickly throw out and pull back his cord, and is generally best used as an attack. The Zip Lash, his signature move, is the second unique mechanic present. The Zip Lash technique takes a second to charge up, but allows Chibi to throw an electrically-charged cord allowing the pint-sized hero to smash through obstacles, severely damage enemies, and grapple onto previously-unreachable specially-marked platforms. While both the Whip Lash and Zip Lash techniques are basically present from the get-go, there is a catch. The length of both attacks are reset at the beginning if each level, forcing players to collect Red Orbs (Whip Lash) and Blue Orbs (Zip Lash) in order to elongate his Lash abilities. While it may seem frustrating, the game presents the power-ups in a way that ensures smooth, though perhaps a bit too easy, level progression.
Other than the Whip Lash and Zip Lash techniques, Chibi can also occasionally find plugs throughout certain levels that temporarily power him up. Who said that it was always a bad thing to set electronics on fire?
Collectibles are also present within each standard level of Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash in the form of Chibi Tots, coins, and Snacks. While each level guarantees three Chibi Tots to catch, three Special Coins, and countless regular coins, referred to as Moolah (the game’s currency), Snacks are a bit more elusive. A la Donkey Kong Country, Snacks are usually earned by finding and completing special bonus rounds hidden within certain levels, with some Snacks merely being hidden within treasure chests throughout the levels themselves. While collecting food may seem a bit mundane, the Snacks within Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash are quite exciting due to the fact that they are all REAL snacks from around the world. What’s more, you can feed toys found within certain levels these tasty treats in order to learn more about them. It honestly is quite addicting. Alas, other than the previously mentioned inclusions, the levels within the game are nothing special, generally consisting of basic platforming. The game is fun, but it doesn’t have the spark that Nintendo’s Super Mario platformers do that makes beating the level a reward in itself. It isn’t terribly difficult to become burnt out with Zip Lash after a handful of levels.
Not surprisingly, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash has received the amiibo treatment from Nintendo. The Chibi-Robo amiibo, currently available in North America only as a bundle set with the game included, is absolutely adorable and, although it may seem like a money trap, does add its fair share to the game. By using the Chibi-Robo amiibo within Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, players unlock a variety of content such as a capsule machine that can be used in order to unlock figurines and bonus levels, and the ability to turn into the amazing (and somewhat unnecessary) Super Chibi-Robo who is pretty much only there to allow you to steamroll through any level that your platforming skills cannot get you through. The Super Chibi-Robo mechanic has a set number of uses per day, but can actually be leveled up. Higher scores within levels will provide the Chibi-Robo amiibo with experience in order to level up, which is actually pretty neat, and higher levels mean a longer-lasting Super Chibi-Robo. The amiibo does seem to provide a bit of incentive to players of all skill levels due to its ability to both add content as well as help players through said content.
While the Robo is Chibi, the same cannot be said for the graphical quality of the game. Rather, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash provides an aesthetically pleasing environment throughout its entirety and is definitely on the higher end of the graphical quality rating scale. Levels are generally vibrant and detailed, and the game does a good job of keeping a World’s theme steady without resorting to using the same assets over and over. Character models also move quite smoothly with clipping and distortion kept to a minimum.
The audio of Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is well-done as well. The sound effects are all well-done, and seem appropriate for whatever is going on. The adorable “speaking” noises made by characters whenever they speak are also back, and just as satisfyingly adorable as ever. The music is clear and audible, with a few songs being catchy, but really isn’t memorable overall. The world of Chibi-Robo was never that big on music for the most part, but with Zip Lash being a platformer one would think that perhaps music would have been made a higher priority.
If I may, let me begin the final verdict with a personal claim; I am quite enamored with the Chibi-Robo! series myself. Thus it pains me to say this, but Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash really seems to fall short of expectations. It was a valiant effort on Nintendo’s behalf to try and put a spin on the series that would be more all-inclusive. However, by doing so, the Chibi-Robo! series lost almost everything that made it what it was. Chibi-Robo isn’t an action hero; he’s a curious, thoughtful little robot driven by the desire to explore the what’s around him and change the world in the best possible way while doing so. Chibi-Robo may have needed an upgrade, but tweaking a machine and building a new one from the ground up are two entirely different things.
Final Verdict: 2.5 / 5
Available on: 3DS (reviewed) ; Publisher: Nintendo ; Developer: Nintendo ; Players: 1; Released: October 9, 2015 ; ESRB: E for Everyone ; MSRP: $29.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash!.