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Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash
by SquareMEal
Reviewed on Wed, 11/23/2016 - 00:27am
SquareMEal Total Reviews: 5
Reviewer Rating
Chibi-Robo falls short in yet another departure from the series roots.
Gaming properties tend to rely heavily on their identities to sell. When you pick up a Call of Duty game, you know that you’ll be playing a war themed shooter with solid multiplayer. Mario is recognized as the king of traditional run and jump platforming. Pokemon is the animal hording RPG. So what is the identity of Chibi-Robo? That’s a very good question and one that even the developers over at skip Ltd. Have seemed to struggle with. Debuting in 2005, Chibi-Robo! Plug Into Adventure! was released on the Nintendo Gamecube. With its likable cast of characters, interesting story, and overall charm, the game was a modest hit. As the titular Chibi-Robo, a 10 centimeter tall robot designed to help out your owners, you were tasked to clean up messes, collect trash, and solve puzzles to help fix the broken household, both literally and figuratively. Since then, Chibi-Robo has starred in three other games, where he’s managed a park, took pictures of household junk for a museum, and even returned to one of the family members of the first game, the latter of which was never released outside of Japan. In each game, there’s sprinkles of the original cleaning and people pleasing mechanic, but each subsequent entry into the series has strayed further and further from that original concept.

So where are we now? With Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, we aren’t cleaning someone’s home. We aren’t going around trying to solve various characters emotional problems. In fact, there’s very little of classic Chibi-Robo in this game beyond the fact that you play as the same robot. This game, instead, focuses on being a side-scrolling platformer, where you go through each level to defeat alien invaders that are stealing all of Earth’s resources. Yeah, the story is paper thin and never develops or goes anywhere. It’s simply a setup for having Chibi Robo visit various themed worlds. Speaking of thin, there are few characters you interact with, save the shoehorned toys and Telly, who is one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever had the displeasure of interacting with in a video game. Between his oddly formal addressing of Chibi-Robo and his constant repeating of game help dialogue (which can’t be skipped), it wasn’t long before I was ready for the game to be over simply so I wouldn’t have to listen to him any longer. As for the toys, they don’t really do anything but beg you to get snacks for them, with your ultimate reward being a costume of their outfits if you give them all the snacks in their world. There’s a distinct lack of charm or purpose to these characters, like they were thrown in simply because colorful toy characters were a large part of the first game.

Gameplay is fairly standard. You run, you jump, and you crouch. This game does try and do something interesting, though. Using Chibi-Robos plug, you can perform a “Whip Lash” or a “Zip Lash” (now the title might make sense). The whip lash simply chucks your plug straight. It’s good in a pinch as it can be thrown quicker, but you’ll often just use the zip lash instead, as it can bounce on walls, plow through certain objects/enemies, and can be aimed. Outside of that, the design is fairly bland. The environments have a typical modular look, but with different textures for different worlds. This is much like how Fallout 4 used modular design for its building interiors, which led to many areas feeling too “samey.” There are some well-hidden secrets and a few fun moments, but I was hoping for more creative ideas that took advantage of the zip lash mechanic. There’s also some vehicle levels but those control horribly and made me super frustrated so I would rather forget them. At least the music is fun to listen to, with “Welcome to Oceania” being my favorite track due to its upbeat tune and pleasant feeling.

In probably the oddest design choice this game has, you have to spin a roulette wheel in order to go to a new level, at least, until you clear the boss of that world. If you have bad luck, you will have to replay levels or fork over the coins you’ve collected to increase your odds of getting the number you want. The only reason I could think they would design it like this is to encourage players to replay levels. They also push this by having the toys change what level they are in each time you beat a stage and making the lost alien challenge only appear after you have cleared a stage at least once. These coins are also necessary to finish the game, as you have to purchase special parts to construct a device to defeat the aliens for good. These parts are super expensive and will clean your wallet if you don’t hoard coins.

If the grind to unlock all bonus items doesn’t sound boring, there’s plenty of stuff to unlock. You can get costumes for your character to wear by giving a toy all the food in their world, rescuing lost aliens (wait, weren’t were supposed to be fighting the aliens?), and spend your extra coins on figurines from a coin machine. In one of the biggest surprises I had with this game, the amiibo functionality was actually somewhat useful. When you finish a level, you get a score based on how many doo dads you picked up, how much power your battery had left, and other varied accomplishments. This score can then be uploaded to your overall score in your amiibo, which in turn is used to unlock rarer figurines and more uses of “Super Chibi-Robo” which is basically turning on easy mode for a level. I wish more games had this kind of amiibo functionality instead of simply tapping the amiibo to unlock a thing and never touching that amiibo again.

Another odd design choice in this game is the food that you collect. Instead of being simple snacks like “chocolate” or “lollipops,” you instead collect brand named items. Each time you find a snack, the action pauses while Chibi-Robo dances and the snack floats majestically in air. What’s more, when you give these food items to the toys, which they ask for by name, they go into a small spiel about how fantastic that particular snack item is. For instance, one toy asked for Tootsie Pops. When they got the snack, they started yammering about the history of Tootsie Pops and its iconic advertising campaign involving how many licks it takes to get to the center. This really felt out of place and forced. I can’t help but wonder if they had to get funding for the games development by agreeing to put these branded snacks in.

Chibi-Robo! stood out when it first launched because of an interesting narrative, characters with some emotional complexity, fun and unique game mechanics, and just an overall charm that draws players in. This game departs from that established identity. Gone are developed characters. Gone is an interesting story. Instead, we got a slow and dry platformer with backwards design ideas, intrusive product placement, and an overall forgettable game that’s held up only by a few interesting game ideas and the residual charm of the Chibi-Robo I.P. As a Chibi-Robo fan, I was hoping for more. If Chibi-Robo gets another game, I hope the developers will have learned from the failures of this game.
Positive points
Negative points
  • The Zip Lash mechanic is fun and creative, amiibo functionality was actually interesting and useful, the game is cheaper now (I got the game and amiibo bundlefor $25), the music is upbeat and fun to listen to
  • Visuals and enemy design are bland, story is pointless, game feels too slow, vehicle sections were a mess, character dialogue can't be skipped, intrusive product placement
Not Rated
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About this Item
Publisher: Nintendo
Item Link:   Go there
Genre: Sidescrolling Platformer
Release Date: October 9, 2015
0 Community Ratings