badipbide, mindupapa dumdidd woppa woppa awimbidabop.
<translation> Welcome to this Review. Here you will find info about Chibi Robo and a document of my experience.
baudadw wblahblah didadihey amibwob dobada dibididay.
<translation> This introduction is pointless because you already know why you’re here.
Welcome to Chibi Robo! Zip Lash, the most confusing, bloated piece of crap that I could ever call an awesome game. I’ve recently finished all 6 worlds and it’s been a very mixed experience. At its core this game is meant to be a fun platformer, so lets get into Chibi’s mechanics first. You have a jump, a whip, and a roll. Forget about the roll because it does nothing, except allow you to roll under a small space every 5 levels or so. It’s like the roll from Donkey Kong Country except you can’t actually jump out of it. It makes you go a bit faster, but the cool-down after rolling makes even that useless. Jumping itself is equally as unsatisfying. You barely get any height, and combined with a slow run speed, Chibi Robo looks like he’s accidentally tripping over gaps instead of jumping.
Thankfully the whip mechanic makes up for this, because the entire game is designed around it. The X button shoots a whip straight ahead at a blistering speed, or diagonally if you are holding up. You can destroy enemies with it and aim it at certain platforms to grip them. Firing an instant shot at a ledge doesn’t do anything by itself, the whip just connects and you stand there. You can press B to cancel it, or press A (jump) to vault there instantly. There’s some good satisfaction in whipping a ledge, pressing A and hearing the nice WITSSHH sound effect in fast succession. You can also hold down the X button while in the air to hover a bit, which gives you a bit of time to line up the whip and save a few bad jumps.
I could expand on the game mechanics and talk more about how they feel, but I’m not. Nope, we’re going on to a completely different topic now because that’s how Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash rolls.
We just skipped level 2, pretty cool right? You see, they’ve come up with this genius mechanic called the wheel. It’s the greatest invention since the wheel. After you finish a level, this wheel tells you where to go next so you BETTER BE READY!
A lot of 1s here, making this one of the more generous wheels. Getting a 1 means the game continues as normal, and you move forward one space on the level board. If you roll a 3 or 2, you’re going to move 3 or 2 spaces on the board which means skipping levels like our poor little 1-2 up above. Oh that’s fine, just replay it later? Right? Hahahahaha.
If you mess up the wheel, you can not go back. You legitimately have to replay the level you rolled to get another chance at a wheel spin, and circle back around the map to get to the level you want. The first time I played through World 1 I had to play Level 3 and 6 twice, just to unlock Level 2, get to the boss wheel, and advance to the next world. That’s right there is still a boss wheel, with ONE thing on the wheel because they had no fucking clue what to do with this mechanic. It feels like a mechanic that was meant to be in a Free to Play game, but they made it $40 at the last minute. Luckily you can manipulate the wheel by buying blocks, but this only became an option to me after World 1. So after all this crap talk, it was not an issue for me after World 1 meaning we can continue with the review. I still find it inexcusably awful, and every single person who plays this game is going to be affected by it. It flooded the Miiverse with confusion.
Alright let’s get back to the gameplay mechanics. I’ve explained the controls but how does the game feel? After a few worlds I was feeling pretty sassy. Chibi Robo has this animated energy to him that I really like. When he swings the whip, he really works it. Holding the Y button lets you fire a long whip and it has a bit of a “charge” while you aim. This slows the pace down a bit and also introduces one of the problems I had with the game mechanics.
Awkward analog nub aiming makes this way more difficult than it should be. A slight tilt of the gyro would line this shot up perfectly, but we’re forced to aim a bit too far with the analog nub, and adjust every time like a stiff console FPS. Despite Yoshi’s New Island having gyro for this exact gameplay mechanic, this game forces you to stop in place and adjust the nub back and forth. Sure it’s manageable, but just super slow and disappointing compared to what they could have done. Almost every single attempt at an “instant” shot will go a bit too far, or not far enough and it takes an extra second to fix. You can use the dpad for super precise aiming, but this just makes it go really slow. So now you’re using both the analog and the dpad, for something that could’ve been solved with a simple tilt. If you haven’t played any of the new Yoshi games you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Just consider the difference in Ocarina of Time 3D’s shooting gallery, or Splatoon without gyro. It’s even more baffling in Zip Lash because the gyro is still used in this game for other things, like turning sockets. THAT is something that could have easily been a button press.
I had a really bad impression of this game when I was playing the first few worlds, but eventually I just accepted it’s not the type of game I was forcing it to be. Unfortunately this is just not a skill-based platformer, it’s solely about adventure and exploration. Chibi’s movement is too slow to have any real fun playing around, so you’ve just gotta follow the linear path and enjoy the sights. This is the kind of thing that stops this game being a classic like Yoshi’s Island. In Yoshi you can jump around and do 100 things at once if you want, but Chibi Robo’s mechanics all operate one at a time. It kills the pacing and makes replaying levels exactly the same experience because you can’t do “better” whipping or jumping. There is almost no challenge whatsoever in this game, which in my opinion is bad design for any videogame with movement. The first 2 worlds especially are painfully easy, and that just trains players to be unskilled and bored. Super Mario Bros got difficult in 5 seconds, and nobody stopped playing that game. Ever.
I’m not even joking, Chibi Ribo is forced to be Mario forever, because you can not take this costume off without having the Chibi Robo Amiibo (which unfortunately I did not get). So without the Amiibo, I can not get regular Chibi Robo ever again in my game file, I have to keep unlocking NEW costumes and switching to the new one since there is no costume menu with this functionality. I have tried so hard to find a way, scoured the Miiverse, pressed every button, googled it, but it appears everyone just says “scan the Amiibo” as a solution. Yeah okay, I’ll just leave my 3DS on overnight and hope Chibi Robo comes into my house.
Having the specific Chibi Robo Amiibo is also the only way to get a Capsule Machine in this game, which means all your other Amiibo are useless unless you specifically get Chibi Robo with the game. I don’t know if they intentionally made this disappointing, or if all this crap was added improperly at the last minute. It’s fucking bad and the game should not be sold without the Amiibo and taken off the digital store. It’s even worse when you consider that only New 3DS models can read Amiibo.
Just a little Chibi in a big city. This whole review has been overly harsh on poor little Chibi Robo, but one of the things I loved about the game was the world design. The whole game has this surreal atmosphere and convincing feeling that you’re a tiny little robot with a big scary world behind you. Stuff like buckets, flowers and household items all look gigantic in the background and the graphics are fantastic with a nice full, comfy 3D effect. There are bikes and jetskis that take up the entire background, and you have to scroll the level to take some of these big objects in fully. It’s a curious sensation of awe and wonder. World 3 onward especially has AMAZING world design, and it just keeps getting better in World 5 and 6 with some ridiculously cool and unique levels. One level has Chibi Robo climbing a giant tree, and the viewpoint rotates when you get to the “corners”, creating this absolutely epic feeling that you’re conquering the world. The gameplay never really gets difficult in the core game, but there are some interesting boss battles. They have spectacular animations, interesting patterns, and use the whip mechanic in ways that are significantly more interesting than the main game, with tetris / space invaders style change-ups. It’s almost like a different developer designed the bosses.
The music is also fantastic, and I have had the World 1 theme stuck in my head ever since I played the demo. It’s catchy and upbeat but also weird. I’ve never quite heard anything like the World 4 music which takes a lush forest environment and makes it feel “deep” and a bit strange. World 6 also brings the hype with a nice upbeat melody that bounces off the ice. It creates a super cool, unique identity for the Chibi Robo game universe and I really like it.
By the way, this game has a World 7 but you’re going to have to pay me $20 if you want to hear about it.
I’ve been reading Chibi Robo reviews (IGN, Nintendo-Life, NWR) and it’s clear none of them finished the game because World 7 is not mentioned. It’s just “Amiibo is great, you get 50 coins a day!!111“. These fucking idiots are going to lead to more disappointment because people like me are just going to buy the game without the Amiibo after reading that. But yes it’s true, the game has a World 7 and supposedly it’s pretty good because all Nintendo special worlds are great. This might be where the game finally gets challenging. You need the Chibi Robo Amiibo for 6 levels, costumes, other Amiibo functionality, Super Chibi Robo, and basic UI navigation. It’s almost essential for the structure of the game to make sense. Awkwardly my game file says 100%, and when you beat World 7 it changes to 120%. This also means collectibles do not have any purpose, there’s 3 Chibi Tots and 3 big coins to grab in each stage. I still don’t know what they mean but the Tots are pretty cute.
The most tragic thing about Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is that it could have been a really good game. It was just completely sabotaged in every way it possibly could be. This is a pretentious thing to say, but I don’t think Iwata would have allowed it to exist. It would’ve been delayed and fixed, and he would have sat down with the CLUELESS Directors (that’s right, this game had TWO Directors) of Zip Lash and told them that videogames are meant to be enjoyable. People would’ve complained but it would have been right to fix this game. Skip just had no idea what they were doing with a 2D platformer, it’s like they ticked all the 2D platforming “boxes” without considering whether or not the game is fun to play. The camera constantly takes over the action to “show you” mysterious parts of the level, ironically removing any kind of mystery they could have had if you discovered it yourself. I feel bad for any kid who got this game for Christmas, because the game projects an aura of disappointment. I will write this off as an “experiment”, but if Nintendo structures another game like this I will worry. It’s completely aimless and disappointing by design.
The low sales of this game will hopefully dissuade Nintendo from ever doing this again, but they could also hear “people don’t want 2D platformers” or “Chibi Robo has no appeal” which would be tragic because this is a very cool game world. It’s just a very unplayable one, with clunky navigation, long pointless animations, and almost no challenging design. This game bombed because it was poorly made, plain and simple. I don’t know Watt they were thinking. Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash as it stands is one of the best games I will never recommend to anybody.
3 thoughts on “Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash – Too Chibi, Too Late”
I think I want to like this game more than I actually do. I definitely echo your complaints – the wheel is just the stupidest idea I’ve ever seen put into a game, the mechanics of the game are a bit slow and plodding, and the whole amiibo functionality feels kind of forced. Some other things that annoyed me included the way they handled the secret rooms to earn snacks. If you happened to mess one of these up, you have to replay the whole level to get another go at it. Even suiciding and going back to a checkpoint won’t allow you to reenter. So many of the design decisions in the game were questionable and it was frustrating to see Vanpool or Skip or both of them fumble some really simple stuff.
In regards to the amiibo stuff – I do happen to have one of those NFC reader peripherals that came with Happy Home Designer and I also happened to get the bundled version of the game that includes the amiibo. World 7 really only has 4 true levels; the other 2 are just MKII versions of the submarine boss and the breakout boss. While I’d say those levels are decent, they don’t match up to the typical quality of Nintendo hidden levels. Outside of that, I didn’t really do much with my amiibo. It’s kind of a hassle to use, especially with the peripheral, and I didn’t really need the super-whatever powers that came from scanning it mid-level.
The oddest part of this whole experience is that despite my distaste, I’ve collecting and completed nearly 100% of everything that’s in there. With the exception of maybe 4 levels between worlds 5 and 6, I’ve found everything in the game, including all of the silly outfits. I don’t know why I did it, because you don’t really get anything for it and it’s awfully tedious to tread back through the levels. Despite being so close to full completion, I decided to put the game down and move on to Triforce Heroes and I’m happy I did.
I really, really, really wanted to like this game… to a degree, I do still like it, but I would be hard pressed to actually recommend it to someone when there are far better platformers on the 3DS. The “whip” mechanic could have been expanded on so much more than it was… the game really needed a lot more polish and development time, but sadly, not every developer can be Good Feel or Retro.
The vehicle stages… I hate them. The worst one has to be the one where you’re forced to float from a balloon, and you… swing from side to side to make the balloon sink… or rise? I don’t remember, I just remember I was grateful when the game offered me the opportunity to skip the stage by forking over some coins. The others aren’t as bad, but I tended to roll my eyes every time I realized the next stage was vehicle based.
The stage select wheel was just a bizarre choice, especially since skipping stages have absolutely no benefit. I have to wonder if it was simply implemented just so you would have something to spend coins on. All I did was just fill the wheel with “1” panels. The weird product placement also felt REALLY out of place in a Nintendo title, what with each toy going on and on about how GREAT these treats were. The whole game feels “off”… kind of like that horrible Wario: Master of Disguise game that was foisted onto the DS last generation… well, maybe not THAT bad.
This was actually the first Chibi-Robo game I’ve played… it was always a series that I’d always planned to “get around to playing”, and now it looks like this will probably be the title that nails shut the little robot’s coffin. Which is sad. Skip came up with this great little character, which, like Kirby, could fit in almost any kind of game, but sadly, really couldn’t find anything to do with him after a couple of games.
Oh well. Perhaps it’s high time I cracked open my copy of Chibi-Robo on the Gamecube and give that a whirl.