In what is all new ground for Chibi-Robo as a series, our robotic tiny hero embarks on a platforming adventure. As a series, Chibi-Robo has never done astoundingly well here in the Americas as it does in its home country of Japan, and still, we keep getting new titles, including the recently released Chibi Robo! Zip Lag, that play in entirely ways from the last. If I didn’t know any better I’d say Nintendo is really trying to push this guy and get us to like him or something! I mean…I kind of like him, if only a little. I’ll see myself out…
If you’ve ever picked up one of Nintendo’s famous platformers, be it Mario, Kirby or Donkey Kong, then you’ve already got a head start on what I’m about to tell you. Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is a well-oiled machine. It runs smoothly. The controls are tight and the difficulty is spot on. And yet despite its inherent similarity to many other already revered franchises, Chibi-Robo manages to set itself apart in a very commanding way. Platforming titles are all about how you move about overcoming obstacles in your immediate surrounding area. In Zip Lash you can jump…but there’s very little of it. Instead, Chibi-Robo uses his plug as a whip and latches on to platforms to pull himself across gaps.
A large majority of Zip Lashes gameplay revolves around your plug and how it is used. Not only is it for traversing terrain, but it’s your primary tool for fighting the insidious alien menace. Chibi-Robo has two different ways he can swing his cable: the Whip Lash and the Zip Lash. A Whip Lash is quick snap attack that can strike at nearby foes or grab onto short distance ledges. The Zip Lash on the other hand is a little bit more heavy duty. Zip Lashes are charged attacks that strike out at greater distances with greater power, but it can also be bounced off of walls to solve puzzles or reach out of the way objectives. The range of both your Whip Lash and Zip Lash can be extended by collecting Red Orbs and Blue Orbs respectively. The further you can reach, the easier things become!
On the topic of collecting, Zip Lash has an absolute silly amount of things to find in each level, and when you complete specific collecting the game presents you with an award for whichever objectives you manage to complete. Stages contain coins, golden coins, Chibi-Tots (which are even littler Chibi-Robos), snacks that have been stolen by aliens, random garbage for your ships generator, and of course the earlier mentioned lash orbs. I’d go over what all of these collectables do for you, but I don’t want to spoil all of the fun!
“With everything taken into account, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is a well-put together title. The pros outweigh the cons by leagues and it has fun packed into all the right places.”
The last gameplay element I’ll go over is a small one, but one that frustrated me. It wasn’t difficult to work with, but it felt unnecessary and time consuming. Each world in Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is presented with a circle that you walk around and the various “points” on this circle represent the levels. When you beat a level you get a chance to spin a wheel and see how many “points” you move forward. What this means is you won’t be doing the levels in each world in any sort of order. Add to this that all of the levels in each world must be completed before moving onto the next. What this essentially boils down to is walking in circles and doing levels that you’ve already done as you try to land on the one level you keep missing. Nintendo did include a work around at the cost of in-game coins. This allows you to buy a tile with the number that is equivalent to the number of moves to get you to that one level you need. So while there is an eventual guarantee to get the level you want, it’ll dig into your ‘virtual’ funds.
One of the major selling points for Chibi-Robo Zip Lash is its amiibo. And in fairness, this is a big selling point for most Nintendo games these days. In the case of Zip Lash, you get the Chibi-Robo amiibo bundled with it! This adorable little fella does a couple of different things for your gaming experience (aside from being another shelf piece to sit beside your army of Smash amiibos). First and foremost, and quite frankly the one reason we all bought it for, is its use during gameplay. When tapped on the New 3DS, or amiibo adapter, Chibi-Robo becomes Super Chibi-Robo and gets a shiny new golden chasse to indicate the change. Your health, damage dealing, run speed and swing speed all improve drastically making combat a breeze. After you’ve completed a level as Super Chibi-Robo your score will be added towards an experience meter for your amiibo. As you level up you gain access to a capsule machine, which brings us to the second benefit to having this amiibo. When opened, these capsules can reveal any number of things including virtual collectable figurines to bonus stages. Chibi-Robo is also compatible with the many other amiibos in your collection. When tapped, these amiibos earn you coins that can be used at the in game shops for helpful items.
Chibi-Robo is a little hero, so your environments completely reflect that. He’s also a teeny-tiny robot too, and guess what? The environments reflect that too! Everything surrounding you in Zip Lash has a larger than life quality to it, and that’s because it is. Our hero is on the small scale so everything around him looks extra big, but that’s not where the fun comes in. What really makes the game so eye-catching is the art style in which it was done. The entire world around you has a sort of polygonal look to it…very robo-esque if you will. The mechanical quality to the world really helps to sell Chibi-Robo as being more immersive than it would have been under normal circumstances.
Unfortunately, where Zip Lash excels in its visuals it lacks any type of bragging rights in its audio presentation. The music is cute enough for the type of characters it’s playing alongside, but it feels fairly generic and somewhat repetitive. It’s almost like listening to a band play all of their songs, but not realize that they had stopped one and started another because they all sound so damn alike. I’m looking at you “death metal”.
With everything taken into account, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is a well-put together title. The pros outweigh the cons by leagues and it has fun packed into all the right places. It makes great use of amiibos, especially its own, and it puts a fresh new spin on Nintendo’s already impressive array of platformers. Chibi-Robo has seen a lot of change over the years, and while I’m sure that’s great from a marketing stand point I really hope this is the gameplay style that sticks for good. I’d play the crap out of more of these.
***Reviewed on the New 3DS with a retail copy provided by the publisher***
- Creative Platforming
- Great use of amiibo
- Tons of collectables
- Simple, effective art style
- Level selection mechanics
- The music is meh