NS Review – Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash (3DS)
“Oh my goodness, sir, you found a snack! It’s Caramel Corn!” (Telly from Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, 2015)
I found many snacks during the thirteen hours I spent with Zip Lash and although I didn’t actually get to chow down on any of them, at least I learnt a conversation piece or two about recreational eating. So much so that the next time you find yourself within the constricting binds of an awkward silence you could too share an informative Chibi-PC Caramel Corn anecdote. I’ve left this particular entry at the bottom of the review for you…
Ten years ago video game developer skip Ltd. created the fictional company Citrusoft – the designers behind Chibi-Robo a ten centimetre watt powered robot. Zip Lash is the fifth addition to the kooky humanitarian adventures of this said mechanical character, and honestly I don’t think it matters one iota if you haven’t played any of the previous entries as catchup isn’t compulsory. The world of Chibi-Robo! is all a bit eco-friendly, adorably twee but also rather bonkers. To coin a phrase from my partner’s repertoire, “kind of like Katamari you’ve just gotta ‘roll’ with it!”
This time around there’s an international crisis afoot caused by these cheeky alien folk who are pillaging the earth’s natural resources. It’s up to our 10cm friend and his ‘tail’ to save the day. Here we have a bread and butter platformer with a zip and whip mechanic to call its very own, inclusive of level design built for cord ‘n’ plug trajectory. At the start of each the cm length of what we call Chibi’s whip lashes and zip lashes are reset. Orbs are collected to buff them up allowing for longer quick right-angled whips or more controlled mightier rebounding zips. This is how we the player predominantly interact with the game using the plug like a grappling hook, helicopter hover jump, means to power-up and or battering ram.
Now this mechanic pleases me like it did the first time around but it also saddens me the game never takes it anywhere truly taxing. I’m not saying it’s void of neat ideas because over the six continent themed ‘worlds’ I found each level tending to bring a new card to the ideas deck. For instance the North America boss battle was a good brag to how the zip lash could be used in an interesting way to defeat a big ol’ baddie. But overall there was this looming pang that the game itself was worried about any idea outstaying its welcome which in turn weakens the in-hand experience.
The same can be said for the platforming as well, it just kind of plods along at its own dopey pace. Throughout my playtime apart from one ‘skateboard’ level (which actually ended up being due to my own ineptness anyway) frustration never reared its unwelcome noggin. In fact it’s all a bit too easy really, and you can see your gaffs in the making an Austin Powers’ steamroller off, which began to make me ponder what the target audience ideal is supposed to be here.
Also to add to the list there’s a fair share of hand-holding text you’re forced to continuously read and the odd design choice for level selection – you have to spin what’s known as the destination wheel meaning you could end up revisiting levels when all you actually wished for was to play the next stage. The novelty wears thin rapidly once you realise you can rig it via the panel shop, which is yet another way to slow down the proceedings. Let’s put it this way, there were points when I yearned for a far greater skip button intervention!
Zipping away those negatives now. The game does allow for some unadulterated silliness, as in you get to swing alien babies into the air to be hopefully caught by their corresponding mother-ships echoed by bizarre SFX. Hunt down and deliberately bump into level by level the terrible trio miniatures of Chibi to earn that a lustrous Chibi-tot Custodian Badge. Run snack related errands for a zany cast made up of a French speaking Nut-cracker to a fashion conscious Penguin. Witness the dancing that happens practicality after almost anything and everything. Find and wear cat outfits (yes, cats!) which you can also gift fellow Miiverse regulars with by sharing unlock codes. Plus not to forget the ability to listen to the wonderfully infectious music which I have already caught myself blathering out during my usual hot beverage conjures. This game resonates all the things Chibi-Robo, putting the ! in Chibi-Robo! and more importantly it all made me smile. But I’m not convinced the !s and a rule bending amiibo are quite enough to save the franchise from zip lashing down into the lost and almost forgotten chambers of Nintendo published quirk.
In an industry muddled with platformers it’s a shame the Chibi-Robo! brand decided to self harm its uniqueness with its latest outing. However, its as always thematically charming spunk plugs out an a-okay effort if somewhat hampered by a sluggish ache and unnecessary repetitive in-betweens. If you haven’t already rung your 3DS run ‘n’ jump quota dry this year then there’s no horrific error in adding a good lashing of pick-up-and-zippyity-whippity to the mix, if you’re able to of course like Katamari just ‘roll’ with it! Now then, about that Caramel Corn…
“Caramel Corn / Tohato Inc. / 1971 / Japan: This caramel-flavoured puffed corn snack tastes sweet overall, but the sweetness is balanced by real pieces of roasted peanuts. The cute face on the packaging adds a creative spin to the brand.” (Chibi-PC from Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, 2015)
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is released tomorrow (06/11/15) in Europe! This Nintendo Scene Review wouldn’t have been possible without a press copy kindly provided courtesy of Nintendo UK.