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Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash – 3DS

Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash – 3DS

Chibi-Robo! Zip LashPlatform:  Nintendo 3DS

Release Date (NA):  October 9th, 2015

Developer:  skip Ltd, Vanpool

Publisher:  Nintendo

Genre:  Platformer

Nerd Rating:  8 out of 10

Alright, so the latest Chibi-Robo may not exactly fit into this month’s retro theme, but through waiting rooms, traffic jams, school pick-up, and the occasional power outage, I’ve finally managed to finish it up and it’s time to put pen to paper.

Chibi-Robo! Zip LashAdmittedly I know nothing of the Chibi-Robo series.  I’d never even heard of it until the corresponding Amiibo announcement way back in the latter half of 2015.  Being the dutiful Amiibo collector that I am (thanks largely to the Doc filling in my missing gaps over the summer!), I went out on that morning of October 9th and picked up the Chibi-Robo Amiibo – of course initially it was only available as part of a bundle with the game Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash itself.  Since then I’ve slowly worked my way through this unique platformer with a distinctly Japanese flavor and while a couple of things hold it back from true greatness, it is a fun if slightly offbeat title for the 3DS.  It was certainly a strange yet refreshing diversion from the Mario and Kirby sort of platformers that I’m used to.

The world of Chibi-Robo is difficult to describe.  It’s mechanical and industrial to be sure, but also seemingly miniature and somewhat toyetic.  The game is divided into 6 worlds with 6 levels in each and a boss battle.  Each “world” is really a continent on Earth, and apparently there are some aliens causing trouble.  I’m not really sure what the scale of this trouble is, but the aliens do seem to litter quite a bit and snatch up all sorts of snacks – mostly Japanese in origin (Pocky, Onigiri Sembei, Bakauke, Ottootto Usushio, Wasabeef, and many more) but also some from other countries (the Finnish Vanhat Autot, the German Moritz Eiskonfekt) and some recognizable domestic ones as well (Utz chips, Pez, Tootsie Rolls).  As a sort of subplot, Chibi-Robo finds and collects this candy, and then passes it on to other “toys” he meets along the way.  I don’t know why any of this is happening, but it’s happening.

Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash

Much like other contemporary platformers, one can simply move through the game from Point A to Point B, or the player can spend some time exploring and meeting such goals as finding all of the “big coins” (3 per level), rescuing the even more miniature “Chibi-Tot” (3 per level), and gathering up all the snacks in a given level.  Points play a somewhat significant role in the game, and in addition to the tasks mentioned, Chibi-Robo also gains points based on his health at the end of a level, finishing a level without taking damage, not using items, and not needing checkpoints (no dying).  The objectives and the setting and even the characters are almost nonsensical, or at least incomprehensible, but despite what feels a bit like a haphazard creative writing assignment from an elementary schooler, it’s the unique gameplay that keeps this game interesting.

Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash

Chibi-Robo isn’t much of a jumper, which would traditionally not bode well in a platformer environment.  However, he does have a tail that resembles an electrical cord with a plug.  Chibi uses his “tail” in various ways: to grab on to higher platforms, to smash through blocks, dispatch enemies, grab items, and even help him hover a little bit with difficult jumps.  Getting the hang of his tail takes a little getting used to, but after that it’s a fun little mechanic.  As Chibi progresses through the level, he picks up little orbs that gradually lengthen his cord/tail, making it easier to reach tougher places through clever, sometimes puzzle-like means.

Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash

Bouncing Chibi’s tail around is both novel and challenging.

All of Chibi-Robo’s whip lashing and zip lashing wouldn’t mean much if it weren’t for the intricately designed levels.  There’s a lot tucked away beneath the surface – false walls, off-screen areas, and places that’ll take a little ingenuity to reach.  Through it all, Chibi is swinging around, hoisting himself up, blazing a path, and eve riding around on a few vehicles.  I think one thing that makes Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash feel a little bit different as a platformer are the marginally realistic in-game physics.  It’s most noticeable when Chibi has to bounce his tail off surfaces and when operating some vehicles.  Things like gravity and friction are taken into account, and while not being able to leap across half of a screen like Mario might be a little frustrating at first, the game quickly breaks the player of relying on jumps, instead encouraging them to make the best use of their whip- and zip-lash moves.

Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash

The vehicular levels are especially difficult, mostly because you have to do it all in one shot. One mess-up and it’s back to the beginning!

All of the little platforming elements are a lot of fun, though I wish the worlds stood out from each other a little more.  The factory-like look is used throughout, and although the challenges remain relatively fresh, at times it feels like the game ran out of graphics.  Lots of gray boxes, gray platforms, gray walls, etc.  The boss fights leave a little to be desired as well.  They aren’t bad boss fights, but it’d be great if they more closely reflected the creativity within the levels.  There is a wheel to spin to determine what type of boss is fought; however, my wheel only ever had “easy” bosses.  Then there’s the option to buy panels for the wheel, but the only panels available are for…”easy” bosses.  So I don’t really understand what’s going on there.

Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash also does a few other interesting things that you won’t find in similarly structured games.  One aspect I found interesting is its handling of health/life/time. It’s all wrapped up in “watts,” and Chibi-Robo starts each level with 999 of them.  These watts slowly tick away like seconds on a clock, while larger chunks are subtracted when running into enemies.  Very few hazards are insta-kills, instead subtracting a certain amount of watts and sending Chibi back to the last checkpoint.  If at any point the meter reaches zero, it’s “Game Over” and the player is given the option to retry the level (from the beginning) or to eventually pay money to pass it.  The watts are taken from a larger “bank” of watts that Chibi can increase by turning in waste and litter found in the levels. Whatever happens when the bank reaches zero I don’t know, but I found the combination of both lives and health and a time limit pretty ingenious.

While the graphics could be more appealing, they’re still of great quality, taking on a sort of “cartoonish realism.”  You can see this in the litter left behind: broken mugs, bottle caps, paper cups, and the like.  The snacks also appear to be actual scans of the packaging and the toys (and Chibi) are nicely detailed as well.

Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash

Chibi-Robo! Zip LashAs I mentioned previously, there are a lot of little things to run around and collect in Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash…even more if you take the Chibi-Robo Amiibo into account!  Unfortunately there’s no real way to track the progress made in the this regard.  Simply finishing the game will grant a “100%” completion marker, which is sort of a shame, because the levels themselves are designed to be revisited at least once to find the little alien dude.  Aside from beating the bosses and finishing the levels, there’s a lot to get done and I wish there was a way to keep track of it all – recovering snacks, giving snacks to the right toys, finding the “big coins,” and collecting outfits for Chibi are just a few. When factoring in the Chibi-Robo Amiibo (which I highly recommend), the player gains access to a capsule machine full of trophies, which will eventually pave the way to a secret World 7.  The player can also summon an enhanced, more powerful version of Chibi with the Amiibo and level up the Amiibo itself for increased functionality (more uses of “super” Chibi-Robo per day, gaining access to rarer capsules, etc.).

Altogether Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is an interesting, eclectic, and mostly original mish-mash of elements that come together to form a pretty cool game.  However, sometimes I wonder if it’s a bit too eclectic, with things like toys and aliens and snacks popping up out of nowhere with very little of a plot or story to hold it together.  The developers definitely achieved a distinct look and feel for the game which isn’t always an easy thing to do.  Despite the relatively minor flaws, it is a lot of fun once you get used Chibi’s movements and attacks, and anyone in the market for a quality platformer should enjoy it.

By the way, there’s this feature on there called the “Chibi Outfit Network” or something along those lines, and it’s supposed to rely on these codes that are somehow decoded via Miiverse postings….yeah, pretty weird.  I honestly knew nothing of this from playing the game, and it was only after I finished and did a general search for secrets that I came across it.  Anyway, here’s a neat trick to try; you can do it anytime but it’ll probably be easier after you finish the game.  When in the ship, go to the PC and click on the “Outfit Network.”  You’ll be given an opportunity to enter in codes.  The best thing to do is enter them all in at once.  Then, replay any level (one from each world will be exempt) and find and rescue the baby alien – you can only rescue the alien after you’ve cleared the stage once.

Anyway, once you have the code in, go in and rescue that stage’s baby alien, and Chibi will get a new outfit!  And boom you’ve just solved the mystery of that “???” square on your lower screen!

World 1
  1. 90841
  2. 31389
  3. 08201
  4. 28382
  5. none
  6. 22801
World 2
  1. 87164
  2. 73396
  3. none
  4. 65465
  5. 62985
  6. 53612
World 3
  1. 46177
  2. none
  3. 11156
  4. 86229
  5. 53540
  6. 45379
World 4
  1. 38655
  2. 49787
  3. 57749
  4. none
  5. 15626
  6. 17885
World 5
  1. 78313
  2. 64387
  3. 35702
  4. 73231
  5. none
  6. 76344
World 6
  1. 33215
  2. 38060
  3. none
  4. 22399
  5. 19303
  6. 45522
World 7
  1. 48087
  2. 72799
  3. 53666
  4. 46482
  5. none
  6. none

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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One Comment

  1. Steroid Gamer
    Steroid Gamer says:

    I picked this up as well, at launch, for the amiibo but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Most of the reviews out there have been bashing the hell out of it, so I haven’t had any urgency to go play it.

    But it sounds like there is more to this game if it’s given a fair chance. I’ll have to bump it up a few pegs on my overbearingly large backlog.


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