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Review: Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash

Chibi-Robo has been around since the Nintendo GameCube era and was featured in a variety of games. The Chibi-Robo games are considered as ‘smaller’ Nintendo games and could never compete with the big franchises like Mario and Zelda. Nintendo tried to innovate the franchise with every new release and experimented a lot with it. From cleaning houses to taking pictures, the small Nintendo robot has done it all. In Zip Lash, the small robot goes on a traditional platform adventure with some fun new elements.

A golden heart

Chibi-Robo was originally created to clean houses and get rid of the trash. The robot could gather this trash and turn it into green energy. It’s the kind of robot we could use on Earth to help prevent Global Warming. Besides his cleaning tools, Chibi has a golden heart above all. When he discovers that some sneaky aliens called ‘Gyorians’, are stealing all Earth’s natural resources, the robot decides to call in the help of his friend ‘Telly’ to save the Earth from the aliens!

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This is by far the most action-packed story that was every featured in a Chibi-Robo game. Of course, this is told in a very child friendly way, using adorable designs for the enemies and Chibi-Robo. That being said, the story forms the perfect excuse for Chibi’s first platform adventure!

Do the Mario

Chibi-Robo finds its inspiration in other popular platform games like Super Mario. Just like Mario, the game is played as a 2D side-scroller, meaning you’ll always see Chibi-Robo from the side and advance in levels from left to right. You defeat enemies by jumping on top of them (like Mario) or use the Chibi-plug to defeat enemies.

This plug is where Chibi-Robo gets separated from Mario games. The plug is used to defeat enemies, reach higher grounds or to activate a more precise ‘helicopter jump’. Using the plug, you’ll often feel like you’re playing a sort of Castlevania light. We didn’t know platforming and Castlevania/Metroid gameplay would work but Zip Lash proves that this combination results in a very fun experience. The Chibi-plug is the most important tool of the game, it’s not only your weapon, it’s your only solution to reach higher platforms.

I whip my Chibi-plug back and forth

Your Chibi-plug is your main weapon in the game and comes in two forms. First of all there’s your Whip Lash, which is your standard but short-ranged attack. This is used to take down enemies or grab objects not that far away. The Whip Lash doesn’t need time to power-up but can be used constantly. It’s the best option to take down a lot of enemies or bosses but it’s nothing compared to the Zip Lash. The Zip Lash is the most powerful tool of the game and can get twelve times longer than the regular Whip Lash (by collecting bubbles in the game).

 

Fun but not perfect

 

The Zip Lash is the big star of the game and is needed to solve a lot of puzzles or reach higher grounds. Not long after your first steps, you’ll find the bounce upgrade, which enables the Zip Lash to bounce off the surface. This is needed to activate certain switches or gather certain objects in the corner of a map. By bouncing off walls, your Chibi-plug will be able to reach areas you thought never could be reached before. It’s also the perfect tool to take down several enemies at once but it needs some time to activate. You really understand the power of the Zip Lash during the fast-paced sections of the game.

It will sometimes happen that Chibi needs to run away from an enemy and needs to unlock certain doors that are blocking his way. Those doors open by activating a switch, a switch that can often be reached by bouncing your Zip Lash off the wall. When it works and you manage to string all of Chibi’s abilities together, you understand the true potential of the game better. It’s a shame however that the game doesn’t feature a lot of those sections and you have all the time of the world to aim your Zip Lash most of the time.

The product placement problem

The lack of challenge isn’t the only problem in the game; product placement is one of the weirdest decisions we’ve seen in any Nintendo game lately. As you’ve read before, Chibi-Robo is designed to clean and collect, meaning the world of Zip Lash if filled with collectibles to extend your gameplay, one of those collectibles are real-life products such as Mentos. Once you gather those, the game shows a special animation to promote the product. These products are used to feed special creatures in the world of Chibi-Robo, it’s your goal to collect and feed them all. The weirdest thing however is how hard this product placement got pushed. Every time you gather a snack, the game offers you to write about it on Miiverse, to promote the product even more. We don’t have problems with product placement if it happens in a subtle way but Zip Lash is pushing these boundaries. It doesn’t add something crucial to the gameplay so we really don’t understand why Nintendo allowed it in the first place.

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Fun levels but absurd progression

That being said, the levels of Chibi-Robo certainly are fun to play. They’re polished enough to give you a great time. The levels are filled with collectibles to keep you going and there’s a lot of variation. Not all variation is good; the vehicle section in each world for example doesn’t feel right and is too hard compared to the regular game. If you fail during a vehicle section, you need to restart the entire level, there are no checkpoints. These vehicular tracks aren’t the best but offer some fun nevertheless.

Each world is divided into six levels; one of those features a vehicle and each world ends with a boss fight. These bosses are the highlights of the game; all of the bosses are designed in a typical Nintendo way and offer great variation on the platform gameplay. You really need to use your Chibi-plug in smart and interesting ways to bring them down. Since these bosses are so much fun, you’ll want to complete each world as fast as possible, too bad the progression stands in your way.

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Unlike Mario games, you won’t advance to the next level once you clear the previous one. After each level, you’re forced to spin the wheel, the wheel indicates the amount of places you can advance. This also means you’ll end up on a level you already cleared multiple times. If this happens, there’s no way back and you’re forced to replay that entire level and take another spin on the wheel. This can be avoided by buying advancement places so you know where you’ll end up or by hitting the golden or silver UFO at the end of the level for extra chances at spinning the wheel. Including this wheel to progress in the game makes absolutely no sense, a lot of gamers will get bored to replay the same level over and over again. We simply can’t understand why this tool was included in the game, it really doesn’t add something good but stands in the way of a truly fun game.

Amiibo support 

You can get the game with a cute looking Chibi-Robo Amiibo but what does it bring to the game? Well, the Chibi-Robo Amiibo unlocks a special toy capsule machine if you tap the Amiibo while in the Chibi-Robo house. This machine is filled with great in-game collectible figurines. By spending some of your Moolah money, you can try to collect the most rare figurines several times a week. You can even level up your Chibi Amiibo by scanning the high scores after a level to the Amiibo. Higher level Amiibo will unlock more rare figurines in the toy capsule.

Besides this, you can also use the Amiibo to turn into Super Chibi-Robo. This Super Chibi-Robo is a golden version of the regular robot but is a lot stronger and has unlimited Zip Lash power. Use this one if you’re stuck in a certain level. If Chibi-Robo can’t handle it, we’re sure Super Chibi-Robo can!

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Other Amiibo figurines can also be scanned once a day and will give you some Moolah money or unlock rare figurine poses for the Capsule Toy machine. You can even use your own Chibi-Robo Amiibo in Super Mario Maker to unlock a cute little skin. As you see, Zip Lash has great Amiibo support so getting the game with the Amiibo is certainly money well spent!

Conclusion:

Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash is a fun platform game that really goes its own way with the Zip Lash. The Zip Lash is a fun mechanism that unlocks a new way of defeating enemies and puzzle solving. It’s a shame the game comes with some strange decisions such as the product placement and level progressing. Being forced to replay certain levels isn’t fun at all! The boss fights and vehicle sections bring some variation to the gameplay but can’t make up for the other mistakes. It’s a shame these decisions were made because they really stand in the way of success. If you can look past these mistakes, Zip Lash is an adorable and fun platform game with great Amiibo support.

7/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.