Chibi-Robo (which literally means “small robot”) is a 10cm small robot on a mission to save the Earth. His first appearance was ten years ago, in 2005 on the GameCube, helping a family with their various issues. Since then, he’s appeared in a few more games, but in this latest outing, he’s fighting off an alien menace. Let’s see what the diminutive droid is up to in his latest adventure!
The new Chibi-Robo game opens with the titular character cleaning the outside of a space station in orbit around Earth, when suddenly aliens make an unwelcome appearance. Chibi-Robo decides to take on the aliens, and stop their mischief once and forever, so he heads back landwards to kick the extraterrestrial menace off the planet.
Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash presents as a sidescrolling adventure game for the Nintendo 3DS, where the tiny metal man uses the plug at the end of his tail for various purposes, such as attacking enemies, to activating doors, to zip-lining around the level. The tail plug itself has two kinds of action: a quick whip lash that strikes out at enemies in front of you, and a longer, more powerful zip lash that takes more time to activate, but can reach further and with more force, allowing you break certain objects or reach things that are further away. The tail lash can be a bit of a frustration to use; the whip lash ability is locked to either straight in front or at a 45 degree angle, and while the zip lash allows you to finely tune the direction you throw it in, the amount of time it takes to charge is a pain, especially in sections where you need to zip lash quickly. Instead of being happy at being skilled enough to get through those sections, i was just happy to not have to deal with that frustration again…till later. You’ll see what I mean in a moment.
The levels themselves are themed around various parts of the world, and are fairly standard platforming stages with no real surprises or new mechanics. However, this can be forgiven in the view of the variety of the levels. Most are fairly straghtforward, but you have the occasional odd one where, for example, Chibi has to move around the level using a set of balloons. I loved these fun changes, which made for a nice break after a few straight platform levels. At the end of each stage, you have to try your luck (or skill if you’re good enough) to hit one of three UFOs. Which one you hit determines how many spins of the number wheel you get before the next stage. Why a number wheel? The levels are numbered in a circuit, and the number you land on determines how many spaces forward you move. This is fine, except that you have to complete each stage before you can fight that world’s boss, and there will be times when you’ll have to replay levels purely because of a bad spin of the wheel. If you need to manipulate things a bit, you can use some of your hard-won coins to buy a panel with a desired number on it, or use a lot of the cash to fill the panel with that number to ensure you move ahead the correct number of spaces, but it’s a system that adds very little to the gameplay, and serves to artificially lengthen the game.
As with many of these sorts of game, there are a number of collectibles in each level: coins, medals, chibi-tots (tinier versions of Chibi-Robo), and snacks. The snacks themselves are in-game versions of real-world snacks,such as Mentos mints. However, a large number of them are specific to Japan, and unless you’re actively importing these goods, I doubt the common person knows what they are. Hands up, for example, anyone who can tell me what “UMAIBO” is? These snacks need to be given to specific toys that are also hiding out in some of the levels. It’s a good thing, then, that once you’ve cleared a world, you can pick and choose which stage you want to replay without going through the blasted “Number Wheel of Fortune”.
Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash supports the Chibi-Robo amiibo, enabling the little robot to have a powered up zip lash several times a day. Of course, the more you play with the amiibo to power up the zip lash, the more often you can use it. Like many amiibo features in these games, it’s not essential, but it can make some sections of the game easier to play.
Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash is not a bad game, but it’s fairly mediocre for what you’d expect, and the wheel-spinning game at the end of the stage is doing it no favours at all. What DOES work in the game’s favour is just how darned CUTE it is, and the cuteness factor raises the game’s score a few notches more than it would have. Also, the Chibi-Robo amiibo is utterly adorable! Seriously…look at it!
Final Score: 7.5 Chibi-Prawns out of 10
Developer: Skip Ltd, Vanpool
Distributor: Nintendo South Africa
Platform: Nintendo 3DS Family
Amiibo support: Yes
Release date: 6 November 2015