Chibi-Robo has been a favorite of mine since it launched way back in 2006 for the Nintendo Gamecube here in North America. It was a giant open world game that had your exploring a seemingly "vast" area...that just happened to be a house and yard because of your super tiny size. The characters were interesting and surprisingly adult in their situations and problems. Sadly, none of that is found here in this game as Nintendo takes what may be their final run at this classic series. It is a generally fun game that is marred with conflicting choices, lackluster design, a few good ideas, and a lack of caring most Nintendo games receive.
Nintendo has languished the Chibi-Robo series over the last decade with each release getting smaller and less like the original each time. The DS title (Chibi-Robo!: Park Patrol) managed to bring back some of the exploration but none of the drama and character build up as the original. From there it went dark (at least in North America) for about 6 years before a surprise return in the very simple Chibi-Robo!: Photo Finder as a download only 3DS game where you take pictures for a small museum and clean little rooms. But now we have the release of Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash for the Nintendo 3DS and it has dropped off even more of what made Chibi-Robo such a beloved and fun character. This time we have developers Skip and Vanpool long with Nintendo having Chibi-Robo flying to spots around the world after an odd alien invasion has occurred where items are being randomly taken and yet for some reason you're now tasked to run around as a platformer while using his plug as a weapon as well as means of climbing. This game really makes me wonder what Nintendo is thinking with some of their IPs as they place them in very odd situations that just haven't worked out as well lately.
The game is separated into worlds which are then separated again into a handful of levels per world. You always start on the first level, but afterwards you have to spin a wheel to get to the next one for some unknown reason. You can spend coins fairly easily to basically guarantee where you go, but this whole system just felt like an unnecessary randomness to what is usually a pretty clean progression through a game. I understand that returning is required from time to time in order to unlock all items and to find the baby aliens, but nothing seems to make this design choice justified other than to just have a spinning wheel and something to spend coins on if you don't have an amiibo.
Chibi-Robo does have a few fun tricks up his sleeve though in the ability to catch fire or freeze at different points in the level for some speed runs and other challenges as well as new vehicle sections. The hot and cold add ways to access areas while also giving limited time means to dispatch some enemies. The animations are cute and mix up levels sometimes, but sadly are pretty limited in their uses. The vehicles come with an apparent lack of checkpoints which can be a bother, but were fun as they broke up the steady platforming of the main game.
Puzzles are kept simple as this game is blatantly aimed towards a children's audience instead of the everyone approach that Super Mario, Yoshi, and other Nintendo platformers have taken for the past few years where everyone can play the basic game, but much more is there for the higher level players to explore and challenge. Most puzzles boil down to aiming your plug and bouncing it around a level to complete a jump or press a button. This wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for a restrictive control scheme that locks you to a very non-Nintendo style button layout and then an aiming system which just feels sluggish in practice.
Power management returns, but has proven almost pointless as I had little trouble finishing most levels without damage and even when I was hurt, MANY of the enemies and blocks supplied me with batteries to keep me almost continually charged. Gone are the runs of exploration where you try and balance your reserves VS. finding out what is around the corner. You have a reserve in your ship that you can access with plugs strangely placed in locations that should not only be lacking in any reasonable power system, but also shouldn't even be the correct format for this little guy to use! I know this is an odd thing to point out, but as an individual that has made Electronic Engineering their personal education choice...it sticks out. This power supply is then supplied with the return of garbage collecting that leads to more power. There is a machine in your ship where you drop it off to add power and even has a LED display above it to show how much "reserve" is left. I was never close to dropping this number and always came back with enough junk to jump it up a few thousand more points each time.
Nintendo does continue the trend of fun little unlocks in their games with the addition of little statues of Chibi-Robo, side characters, and enemies as well as some funny costumes for him to wear. The figures are unlocked exclusively through the Chibi-Robo amiibo that was sold with many copies of the game but if you bought it digitally or just a copy of the game, this series of extras is out of reach completely. You use coins earned in the game to buy random toys from a capsule machine which is tied to the level of the Chibi-Robo amiibo. This level is raised by adding together the total of your high scores and the higher level it is, the higher level figures you are allowed to get. All of the current amiibos (minus the Pokemon ones once again for some reason as well as 3rd Party characters like Sonic and Mega Man) will add in new Chibi-Robo stances based on the character for you to randomly unlock as you level the main amiibo. Nintendo recently announced that the Chibi-Robo specific amiibo will be on sale as a standalone soon so you will be able to acquire it if you missed out the first time. You are also able to, up to 20 figures each per day, scan in random amiibos for coins that can be used in game to unlock more figures but at least this use does allow for ALL amiibo to be scanned.
The costumes are unlocked without the amiibo, but you have to work together with other players via Miiverse to find lost baby aliens on repeat playthroughs of levels and then, upon returning them, you have a chance to receive part of a code to unlock that levels costume. These codes are then collected together by users on Miiverse to try and complete it as a group that everyone can benefit from. Once these codes are all gathered I will make a list featuring them all here on the site. These so far have included Link, Mario, and other Nintendo franchised characters.
The last use tied to this Chibi-Robo amiibo is the "Super Chibi Robo" ability that you earn uses for as you level up the figure. This basically lets you "power up" your character a set number of uses to power through levels even easier than before. I really haven't used it as I haven't had a need. I will update this later after I give it a shot! *
And finally Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash is filled with both traditional collectibles in the form of three little tiny Robos to catch (Note: Don't hit them with the plug...they break), special Coins, and lastly snacks. Yes...snacks. This one seems incredibly funny and almost out of place as different toys are asking you to find these snacks from all around the world then to return them in order to get a better description of each morsel. I have found American staples such as Tootsie Rolls to the very Japanese Poki, and many other snacks I have never even heard of yet now kind of want to try. These all earn you medals which offer bonus points to boost your final score and leads to higher levels for your Chibi-Robo amiibo in the end. You also get bonus points for taking no damage, using no check points, and high score.
In the End: Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash is a somewhat fun game that languishes a once very entertaining idea by shoehorning it into a very un-Nintendo platformer with sluggish controls, very weird design choices, and amiibo restricted unlockables. It's fun to play, but many other better options exist instead of this game which sadly probably won't save a beloved character from the scrap heap.
Final Score: 6.0 / 10 - "Could be better, Missed Potential"
Title: "Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash"
System: Nintendo 3DS
Reviewed On: New Nintendo 3DS XL
Developer(s): Nintendo, Skip, Vanpool