Developed by skip Ltd. and published by Nintendo, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is the tiny 10-centimetre robot’s first title in over a year. Having never played a Chibi-Robo! title before, I was eager to get my hands on the newest 3DS platformer, especially since I’d heard such fantastic things about its predecessors. With Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash’s gameplay being similar to that of Kirby Triple Deluxe – a game I enjoyed thoroughly – I couldn’t help but feel a hint of excitement and amble curiosity when I booted up the game for the first time.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash’s narrative is somewhat lacklustre. If you’re looking for an interesting plot to immerse yourself in, you’re in for a disappointment. Starting off as a cleaner on a satellite, Chibi-Robo descends to Earth to get rid of alien monsters stealing its resources… This is about as complex as his adventure gets, and is definitely not something to get excited about.
Story aside, there is something to love about Chibi-Robo straight off the bat: his quirky and loveable personality, which it definitely adds to the upbeat, buoyant atmosphere of the game. The little tin robot is forever dancing around and making light of Earth’s dire situation, and I can’t help but feel as though he inflicts some of his joy onto the player at times throughout the game.
Chibi-Robo has two basic attacks using his plug – the whip-lash: a short-ranged, horizontal attack used for close combat, and the zip lash: a powerful, long-ranged move which, unlike the whip-lash, can be thrown in almost any direction and must be charged up with blue orb collectables found throughout the various levels. The main use of the zip lash is so Chibi-Robo can get to hard-to-reach places by ricocheting it on various walls and obstacles. My only gripe with the zip lash is that it cannot be swung vertically, meaning that you have to position yourself with precision in order to hit certain objects. He can also jump, and hover for a few seconds by spinning his power cord above his head. Despite the simplicity of his moves, I think they work perfectly with the game, and make levels a breeze.
There are four types of levels in the game, and there are six levels in each world. The main levels are mainly implemented for Chibi-Robo to use his lash attacks, and are very well-designed – you can almost taste the thorough planning that has gone into each one. Although they are littered with collectables and enemies, they are still somewhat repetitive and are overly-long, making it boring after some time.
The balloon challenges see Chibi-Robo flying to the goal holding – you guessed it – some balloons. The levels are height-based, and you control your height based on how much you swing back and forth. Even though this sounds like a doddle, I found it hard to find a balance and was left either moving too slow or too fast, making it incredibly frustrating.
The skateboard levels involve riding on a skateboard, dodging enemies and collecting items such as coins. I found that you need to have quick reactions when playing these levels, as they are very fast-paced and see you needing to get out-of-the-way quickly.
The last type of level involves a submarine, and even though there are only two, they are far by the worst in the whole game. Not only is the submarine hard to control, you can only attack enemies from a short distance and can only shoot above you. This makes it quite difficult to complete the levels without a great deal of annoyance, and I found myself losing interest in the game entirely whilst playing through them.
Now, onto my main issue with the game – the Destination Wheel. To complete a level, Chibi-Robo has to strike either a bronze, silver, or gold UFO. The colour of the UFO determines how many chances the player has to select the next level with the Destination Wheel.
Depending on whether you land on 1, 2 or 3 determines how many spaces you move forward in the world, and you play the level you land on, regardless of whether you’ve played through it before or not. I found myself playing through the same levels various times at a shot of playing a level I hadn’t encountered before. There are two ways you are able to pick and choose what levels you play, and one is if you’ve completed a world fully.
The second way to choose your next level is through buying Destination Wheel panels with in-game currency, Moolah. The panels are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, and you can buy whichever panel corresponds to how many spaces you’d like to move in the world. For me, this is a game ruiner as it quickly sucks the enjoyment and fun out of the game and makes it tedious.
Moolah, the in-game currency, is pointless and I really only used it to buy Destination Wheel panels and occasionally power ups found at vending machines. Even then, the power ups were only useful towards the end of the game.
There are several collectables within Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, but they are all essentially worthless. Sweets and snacks can be obtained throughout the levels, and are given to various toys who each request a different one. This was a tedious task, as it involved having to play through levels more than once to give toys certain sweets or snacks which was an extra hassle. I wouldn’t have minded it as much if the reward at the end was satisfactory, but it was just an outfit which reaped no in-game benefits and was ultimately useless.
Chibi tots are smaller, child-like depictions of Chibi-Robo and are obtained by chasing after them – something that I wish was more difficult, as they moved incredibly slowly and made catching them insanely easy. Catching all of the Chibi tots in the level gives you a higher score at the end, but this is literally all they do.
Even though I personally felt as though the game was dull to play through, the soundtrack offered some form of solace. It gave the game an uplifting, upbeat vibe and definitely made it easier to trudge through the levels. I even found myself humming some of the tracks whilst I wasn’t playing the game, which goes to show how easily they can become ingrained in the brain.
The graphics are also a definite upside to this title. Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash has great visuals for a handheld game, and it runs smoothly throughout: I didn’t encounter a single drop in frame rate throughout my 14 hours of gameplay, which is a rarity with games these days.
I definitely think that this game has an element of replayability to it, but only in a “going on a long train journey and needing something to entertain me” sense. It is not a title I would sit down at home and play for long periods of time, but is fantastic if I need something to help me kill time as it’s easy and doesn’t offer much in the way of difficulty.
Overall, I found Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash to be an okay game, but it is definitely only okay at best. The Destination Wheel element to the game was what ruined it for me the most, amongst the overly-long levels and the repetitive gameplay – implementing a “chance” mechanic into this title when it comes to picking your next level was a dumb move, and just made the game incredibly tedious. Horrendous wheel aside, I would recommend this game to people who like a bit of light-hearted fun, and it is perfect for players who enjoy playing through various levels multiple times.
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