Nintendo has been known over the years for their variety of exclusives, with the Chibi-Robo series being one of the more underrated. Taking control of a miniature cleaning robot named Chibi-Robo, the 3D platforming gameplay of past entries consisted of simple tasks like keeping a household clean, but now the titular character is going on a globe-spanning adventure to save the world in Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash.
Chibi-Robo are a line of battery powered robots that are made to serve families by keeping their house orderly. Previous games had players cleaning up a house or park, while using Chibi-Robo’s power cord to keep his battery charged. Taking this show on the road in Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, that power cord is much more important and is the central element of the gameplay this time around.
Across six regions of the planet, Chibi-Robo must work his way through six individual levels, before facing an end boss in each world. These include regions like Oceania, North Africa, and even North America. For the most part, the stages are very similar to one another, with only minimal changes in level design. This does lead to a feeling of repetition throughout most of the game, with the biggest changes only coming very late through lava based stages and even an ice themed world in the South Pole.
The controls found in Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash are incredibly simple, being limited to only four buttons. There are two ways to use the power cord in battle, with both Whip Lash and Zip Lash, which can both be extended by collecting special orbs in the stage. The Whip Lash is just a quick snap of the cord in front of you or at an angle above you, while Zip Lash can be charged up and aimed, which is used constantly in different puzzles throughout the game to advance. These must be used to latch onto various surfaces, including often swinging across multiple in one stretch.
Game physics are everything in a platformer and Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is very well designed in that department, giving you near full control over your character’s movement at all times. Chibi-Robo himself does move a little too slow at times, though it isn’t that much of a problem, except during World 3.
Each world has its own vehicle based stage, such as using a skateboard or jet ski, but the water based World 3 not only has a submarine level, it also requires you to use it against the boss. This is by far the worst experience in the entire game and feels like a slog the entire way through. The solid controls go out the window with a feeling of driving through molasses, while needing precise controls to pick up bombs and use them.
The good side is that the rest of the bosses in the game are much better designed and a lot of fun to face off against. For the most part, they do have pretty predictable timing, but they almost feel like a throwback to bosses of the 8-bit and 16-bit era. Fights against a vampire and even a boss reminiscent of the classic Breakout are great fun, with the final boss mixing it up as well.
One of the most frustrating parts of Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is the method of movement between stages, which almost seems to serve as a tactic just to make the game longer. At the conclusion of each stage, there is a mini-puzzle where you have to hit a colored spaceship, with the smallest getting you three spins. These spins are then used on the Destination Wheel to decide how many spaces you move in this circular map of six stages. However, there is absolutely no reason at all that this was needed, rather than just letting you play level 1-2 directly after 1-1, and so on.
If you get a 1 on the wheel, you obviously can just play the next stage and the wheel can be altered to your favor, but there is just no need for this in the first place. And if you get a higher number and land on a stand you already played, you have to play through it again. Luckily, after defeating the boss in each world, you can pick any stage you want in that region when looking for the numerous collectibles.
The collectibles are a big selling point for Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, even if they are not affecting much in the long run. Within each stage, there are always 3 giant coins, 3 mini robots, and a fluctuating number of collectible snacks. The neat part about these snacks is that they are actual food items from the real world. These are not just limited to Japanese snacks like Pocky, which is found in the game, but also American items like Utz Cheese Curls, Junior Mints, and other foods from around the world as well. Technically collecting these won’t earn you anything besides special badges, but the real world aspect makes them worth searching for in the game.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash utilizes a very different life bar/timer hybrid that is linked to your remaining battery. Each level has Chibi-Robo starting with a total life/timer of 999, which very slowly counts down as you play through the level. With every hit you take, the life/timer drops down much more rapidly. For the most part, this timer won’t create much of a problem, as you can recharge it at charging stations and with energy items that are found throughout each stage. Falling down holes or hitting certain items that cause instant death will actually reset you to the last checkpoint with less life/time, but if that hits 0, the stage must be started over completely.
Chibi-Robo feels right at home in 2.5D
As a result of this atypical health system and the overabundance of charging stations and energy restoration items throughout each stage, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash can really feel too easy a lot of the time. There are some later levels where there is more difficulty, but there are very few spots where players will have too much trouble.
This is made even easier with the ability to purchase items in the game, with one being rather useless. The spare battery is good insurance by replenishing the life/time bar when it hits 0, while the Emergency Jet simply boosts you back up if you fall, though most of the time it does no good based on where you are. There could have been so much potential with other items, but instead it’s limited to just these two.
As with a large number of Nintendo games these days, there is some level of amiibo support. In fact, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash brings with it the first amiibo that isn’t Super Smash Bros., Mario, or Splatoon related, which is exclusive to the game bundle. This amiibo itself is very sleek and actually about life-size, but it also has some use inside the game.
By simply using the Chibi-Robo amiibo, his Super Chibi-Robo form is unlocked for that stage. This is limited to one time per day at first, but by leveling up the amiibo itself in-game, you can transform multiple times per day. Using the amiibo also allows usage of a toy capsule machine that you can use in-game coins to obtain special figures and more, with rarer items coming for an amiibo that’s at a higher level.
Switching genres multiple entries into a series is certainly a big gamble, and the decision to do just that with Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash results in sort of a mixed bag. Chibi-Robo feels right at home in 2.5D, with gameplay mechanics that are very well implemented, but baffling decisions like the Destination Wheel and repetitive level design take away from what could have certainly been a better game in Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash
- Available On: Nintendo 3DS
- Published By: Nintendo
- Developed By: Skip Ltd.
- Genre: Platformer
- US Release Date: October 9th, 2015
- Reviewed On: Nintendo 3DS
- Quote: "Chibi-Robo makes the leap to 2.5D with gameplay mechanics that are very well implemented, but baffling decisions like the Destination Wheel and repetitive level design take away from what could have certainly been a better game in Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash."
- Tight Controls
- Collectible real world snacks
- Good Boss Fights
- Repetitive level design
- Destination Wheel