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Chibi-Robo’s boldest adventure yet

Chibi-Robo holds a curious spot in Nintendo’s pantheon of video game characters, as he’s famous enough for most gamers to recognize him, but he doesn’t yet have the familiarity of worldwide sensations like Mario, Donkey Kong, and Link. Part of this may lie in the rather quirky nature of past Chibi-Robo games, which have revolved around doing household chores (Chibi-Robo! Plug Into Adventure!), cultivating plants in a park (Chibi-Robo! Park Patrol), or collecting everyday junk for a museum (Chibi-Robo! Photo Finder).

For the first time ever though, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash places our beloved little helper robot in a more traditional hero role where he must save Earth from pesky aliens out to deplete our homeworld of its most prized resource (candy, of course.) With the future of the world at stake, it’s time for Chibi-Robo to swing into action and prove his mettle!

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Game Details

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Developer: Skip Ltd., Vanpool

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: October 9, 2015

Genre: Platformer

Modes: Single-player

ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

A new genre for our friendly robot helper

Not only does Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash thrust our little robot pal into an important new role, but it’s also his very first 2D side-scrolling platform adventure. In the game you’ll travel around the world—from the Caribbean, to Europe, to North Africa—on a mission to repel the alien Gyorians before they snatch up all our sweetened snacks. While I was fully expecting this candy to be of the generic kind we typically see in video games, I surprised to find that all the in-game treats are fully licensed real-world confectionery like Mentos, Pez, Tootsie Pops, and Charm Blow Pops. I guess even aliens can’t resist them!

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Gyorian.jpgSmall robot, big powers

On your mission to retrieve these candies, you’ll need to master Chibi-Robo’s two main moves: the Whip Lash and Zip Lash. Both of these maneuvers utilize Chibi-Robo’s power cord, which is conveniently attached to his backside and always held up by his right hand. The Whip Lash is a quick action that sends out his power cord like a whip and is mainly used to attack the Gyorians’ toy minions, or stick into specially marked orange panels that you can pull yourself up to. It’s also used for Chibi-Robo’s “spinning jump” technique where he twirls the plug like a lasso, enabling him to jump longer distances. The Whip Lash move actually reminds me a lot of the eponymous bionic arm mechanic from Bionic Commando, a classic title that gamers of a certain vintage will surely remember.

Chibi-Robo’s Zip Lash move, as you can probably tell by its use in the game’s title, is a technique central to the gameplay. The Zip Lash is a charged whip move, done by holding down the Nintendo 3DS’ Y button for a couple seconds, and possesses a few special properties. Firstly, your Zip Lash can ricochet off walls to grab items, hit enemies, or be used like a grapnel to latch onto walls and hurl yourself towards them. Even more importantly though, by collecting blue “Boost-balls,” you can extend the length of your Zip Lash cord up to 120-inches long, making it long enough to stretch about two full screen-lengths (with the camera appropriately zooming out so you can see where you’re targeting.) Unleashing precise shots with the Zip Lash is a snap, as the game employs a directional aiming line similar to the Yoshi series, only in this game it extends out the entire length of your shot. However, when you need to ricochet the Zip Lash through the game’s many twisty-turny pathways, it can be a little challenging (albeit a fun one!)

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3DS_ChibiRoboZipLash_4.jpgA globetrotting adventure

There’s quite a variety environments you’ll visit in Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, from the underground mines of Oceania, to the hot deserts of North Africa, and the lush forests of Europe, and more. Despite the range of scenery though, the enemies and hazards on each continent are mostly the same, and the level design also doesn’t vary much from region to region. That’s one of the downsides of this game—while it’s a very competent platformer, the levels tend to blend into one another and there’s not enough to make each of the six regions distinct. Compare that to say, Super Mario, Nintendo’s flagship platforming series, where each environment (underground, water, cloud, etc.) typically presents new enemies, new obstacles, distinct graphics, and even new music for a completely different vibe. I certainly enjoyed playing Zip Lash, but aside from the highly visual boss fights, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of imagination put into this game.

This lack of a spark is especially apparent in the atrocious vehicle levels, which range from riding in the Chibi-Sub, to flying with the Chibi-Balloon, to zipping along on the Chibi-Skateboard and Chibi-Wakeboard. The Chibi-Sub, for example, is so slow and lethargic, you’d wonder if Chibi-Robo himself is foot-peddling beneath the vehicle to make it run. The Chibi-Skateboard and Chibi-Wakeboard are a bit more fun by comparison, but with no checkpoints during the levels, it can get frustrating when you wipe out and have redo the whole thing. Thankfully, of the six levels in each region, there only tends to be one or two vehicle levels you have to endure.

On the topic of poorly executed ideas, I have to point out the bizarre “Destination Wheel” used to move between levels. Instead of progressing through levels one-by-one, upon the completion of each level you’re required to spin a roulette wheel to determine how many spaces you move forward on the circular world maps. While it initially may seem like a novel, fun idea, you’ll soon realize that you’ll land on levels you’ve already completed and are forced to play through them again. Perhaps the intention here was to extend the game time, but requiring you to redo levels certainly isn’t the best way to achieve this.

Robo-tot.jpgCollectibles galore

While Zip Lash may not have the same character as Nintendo’s other well-established platform franchises, it certainly has its charm. Chibi-Robo is undeniably cute, and it’s a lot of fun exploring levels to find a wealth of off-the-beaten-path collectibles. In addition to the candy you can collect, you’ll also find playful, miniature Chibi-tots in each level that you need to run after and catch, as well as three special “Big Coins.” Being an environmentally friendly robot, Chibi-Robo can also scoop up various pieces of trash, like old tennis balls, banana peels, and broken lightbulbs, to convert into “watts” that provide him power. With so many collectibles to find in each level, Zip Lash is much more akin to the Yoshi series (which also emphasizes exploration) than to platform-heavy franchises like Super Mario.

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The Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash special bundle edition available at Best Buy also includes the exclusive Chibi-Robo amiibo. This is an awesome addition as not only is Chibi-Robo one of the best (and cutest) amiibo ever created, but how it integrates into the game is a lot of fun. By tapping the amiibo to your Nintendo 3DS console, Chibi-Robo will transform into the golden Super Chibi-Robo, increasing his speed and power, and doubling his life meter.  Furthermore, the amiibo will unlock the Chibi-Capsule machine on the second floor of his Chibi-House, which you can spend money on to unlock in-game digital figures of characters, enemies, and poses.  The amiibo can also gain experience at the end of each level, and you can level it up from a wooden Chibi-Robo all the way to a diamond version.

As if that weren’t enough, you can also use the figures you’ve collected to create dioramas in the Figure Photo Booth, choosing the background, giving it a name, and then sharing it with others on Miiverse. Of all the amiibo-compatible games I’ve played, Zip Lash easily has among the best bonus features I’ve seen.

Final thoughts

Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is a competent platforming game that provides modest fun, but doesn’t possess the magic touch often felt in Nintendo’s more established 2D side-scrolling franchises, like Super Mario, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, and others. With that said, as a collect-a-holic, I did enjoy my time with Zip Lash overall, so if you enjoy platforming games with plenty of exploration, you should have fun with this one. Plus you get one of the best amiibos on the market.

+ Adorable characters and story

+ Lots of secrets to discover

+ Fun platforming elements

+ Excellent integration of the Chibi-Robo amiibo 

– Vehicles control terribly

– Destination Wheel is pointless
– Lacks of inspiration compared to Nintendo’s other platforming titles 

OVERALL

Gameplay: 4/5
Graphics: 3.5/5
Sound: 3.5/5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3/5

Overall Rating 3.5/5 (70%)


Paul Hunter

By , Editor Gaming


I work out of Toronto, Ontario as the Editor of Gaming here on the Plug-in Blog and as Editor-in-Chief of NextGen Player.  I am thankful for having a loving and patient wife who doesn’t mind my 40 hour a week obsession with gaming. You can follow me on Twitter @NextGenPlayer