Chibi-Robo! has always been a strange series to me that I never could really get into. I remember trying out the original GameCube one when it released and just wasn’t that interested in it. Throughout the years I’ve tried various Chibi-Robo! games and none of them really managed to stick with me. Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash looked like a game that was more up my alley though: a traditional side-scrolling adventure for the 3DS. So how was the experience?
As mentioned, this version of Chibi-Robo strays from the 3D “chore-based” gameplay of the GameCube version and puts the little robot in a setting that I feel compliments him better. The story is simple and cliche; aliens are invading the world, leaving trash, and stealing snacks. I mean, what else would aliens do besides steal snacks, right? So it’s up to Chibi-Robo to stop these said aliens, get back the snacks, and clean up the Earth. He travels to various locations on the planet, each with a set of 6 levels. The levels are a bit stereotypical depending on the area (classic Egyptian themed music and background in the Africa section for example) but it gets the job done.
Chibi-Robo starts out a bit slow and easy, as you familiarize yourself with the way the game works. Chibi uses his cord as a whip, and can use a light attack or a charged-up strong attack. Chibi jumps and rolls his way through levels, finding secrets, power ups, and battling enemies. The more I played the game, the more reminiscent the game play felt of a series that I adore: classic 2D Castlevania games. While obviously there are variants, as Chibi uses his “whip” to both defeat enemies, hit switches, and allows him to hover for a short period of time, but there were times when I was dodging and battling enemies and platforming where I thought to myself “If Chibi was a Belmont, I could totally dig it“.
While the core emphasis is on the 2D side-scrolling levels, there are small variants in the level design that help keep it fresh. For instance, one level has Chibi flying through the air while holding balloons avoiding getting hit, and has a much slower pace. While I didn’t mind these breaks, I always felt myself wanting to go back to the core of the game, as the gameplay in the 2D levels was just so crisp and satisfying.
In between levels, you are docked in Chibi’s house, where you are greeted with things to do. All the snacks you retrieve from the aliens are stored here, and have a really detailed model and history. The strange thing is, these are all real world snacks that actually exist. Chibi can also use the trash he has collected in order to recharge a battery meter that determines how often you can continue. With an amiibo figurine, you can unlock even more things, but I’ll discuss that later in a dedicated amiibo section of the review.
When it comes time to choose a level, is one of the games biggest problems. How could choosing a level be difficult? Well, Nintendo somehow managed to make it difficult here in Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash. Each world contains 6 levels, and defeating the 6 levels allows you to fight the boss of that world. Instead of just being a simple layout, such as you play 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, the game uses a wheel mechanism. Spin the wheel, and you will move the amount of spaces it lands on. For instance, if you complete level 1-1, spin the wheel and land on 3, you move to level 1-4. You can gain more spins by at the end of the level hitting a gold saucer (gold is 3 spins, silver is 2, bronze is 1), but the whole thing just gets confusing when you only need to beat 1 level to advance but can’t land on it. You can buy more spins and panels with the in-game currency, but it just makes getting to a level you want a chore. On top of that, after you defeat the boss, you can access any level within the world freely, so why make things so difficult to begin with?
There is incentive to go back to the levels after beating the boss at least, depending on how much stuff you want to collect and unlock. There are select gold coins to capture, robots to gather, trash to collect if you are running low, and even some lost aliens who you must help for bonus content. Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash doesn’t skimp out on the amount of gameplay you get.
Plus, if you purchase the package that comes with the amiibo (or amiibo separately) you get even more content. Touching your Chibi-Robo amiibo to the screen during gameplay unlocks a “Super Chibi-Robo” that has an extended whip, faster speed, and feels a lot like Super Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. While initially you can only use him once a day, by utilizing the games other amiibo-exclusive feature you can get even more. The Toy Capsule Machine allows you to get in-game collectible figures which you can display in a section of your home, and the more rare ones grant abilities like that. It’s a time waster, but it does add a bit to an already stout selection of content.
Graphically speaking, the game is solid but nothing spectacular. Chibi himself is well animated, along with the enemies and environments, and the game uses that classic bright Nintendo color palette to the fullest. The audio department is serviceable as well, with a few tracks being catchier than the others (Africa was my personal favorite).
Aside from the questionable level selection process, my only other major problem with Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is that the game just feels a bit—hollow. It’s a fun game, but everything just feels rather superficial. And while there is a lot of content within the game, some of it seems tacked on to just give it a more robust feel than it actually is. Considering the story isn’t a driving force in the game, and I’m not huge on being a completionist, I never felt too compelled to do much outside of the main game.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is a solid game that was a very entertaining experience. It’s not a ground breaking revolution in gaming, but not every game has to be. It’s fun, easy on the eyes, and the gameplay is very well crafted. It’s a shame that Nintendo said this could be Chibi’s last adventure if this game doesn’t sell well, because I think this is the most enjoyable Chibi-Robo game yet. If you plan on picking it up, do yourself a favor and get the amiibo bundle. Even though I’m not the biggest amiibo fan, the quality on the Chibi-Robo amiibo figurine is outstanding. If you are looking for a quality 2D adventure, and enjoy being a completionist, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash should be on your radar. Chibi whips it, and he whips it good!