Nintendo’s answer to Bionic Commando isn’t quite as action heavy, but its puzzling levels, delightful graphics and charming characters ensure its just as enjoyable. Chibi-Robo! has always been one of Nintendo’s stranger, rather elusive properties but I’m glad they brought him back for the 3DS with Zip Lash.
Eschewing from the little robot’s normal 3D, exploration based environments, ZIp Lash places you in a 2D plane, using your trusty plug and cord to navigate the blocky world, defeat enemies and solve puzzles. You have two basic moves here, the quicker, typically shorter attack, and the longer, more time cunsuming one that’s used to solve puzzles and access those hard to reach areas. Both moves can be upgraded within each stage, with the blue, more time consuming, throw of the plug able to reach lengths of up to 300cm. Throwing and latching your trusty plug onto different surfaces and enemies is great fun throughout the game, and it can even throw out some devious puzzles.
Seeing the diddy Chibi-Robo flinging and swinging across the stage never gets tired, either. Indeed, the cast of Zip Lash is so adorable, that the overall quality of the game doesn’t mean much. With writing similar to that of the Animal Crossing games, characters and cutscenes are a joy. Especially the hidden characters. In the majority of stages, there is a hidden character (usually a toy of some description) to find, wanting to eat some delicious snacks. These scripted sections are charming, funny and look great. Not to mention that you get to give them real-life snacks that are found throughout the game’s six worlds.
Also scattered across the world are treasure-chests, coins, big coins and rubbish. All serve a purpose like containing secrets, rubbish can be converted to energy and coins can be spent on additional items and even what level you visit next. You’ll need to convert your collected rubbish into energy, as this is your health bar. Every stage opens with you having a battery full on 999 energy. This runs out constantly. Taking damage takes sizeable chunks out of this battery. There are sockets in each level that allow you to recharge your batteries, but this is taken from your overall energy supplies. Make sure to collect rubbish when you see it, and incinerate it for energy back on your spaceship every now and then.
You read that right earlier. Coins can be spent to choose what level you do next. Zip Lash features one of the strangest level-select screens I’ve ever seen. At the end of each completed stage, you are greeeted with a six-piece wheel that moves you that number of spaces across the map to your next destination. It’s bizarre. I understand that once you complete a stage, you can go back to access new areas and find new secrets, but this could’ve been achieved with a map as seen in anything from Mario to Kirby. Despite this, and the countless number of complaints I’ve seen about it, you can spend money to buy wedges to fit the wheel containing your number of choice. You get far more cash than you know what to do with anyway, so it’s never too much of an issue. It gets silly with bosses however.
The wheel appears when you beat the six stages in each world, but this time it’s called a boss wheel. The boss wheel is stupid. You have to spin it, even though each wedge contains the same boss battle, such a little time waster, Zip Lash. The bosses don’t fare much better, either. The boss fights are okay at best and really make you feel the overall tedious pace of the game, and in some cases, terrible vehicle gameplay. Chibi-Robo himself is a slow-mover. Moving the diminutive robot about can get boring, despite the smart level design. It’s all so slow. I wish they sped it up just a little bit.
I wish they left out the gimmick stages, too. Your standard level in Zip Lash is fine, albeit a bit too slow, but the gimmick, vehicle-based stages are downright poor. With broken controls, slow, unexciting gameplay and plenty of frustrating moments. These type of levels are usually limited to just one in each world, but one overall would have been too many. The worst moment was when one of the bosses incorporated the slow, hard to control and generally awful submarine. I hated that.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is an uneven game, and you’ll have to learn to take the good with the bad to get anything out of it, but it’s charming. Yes, the gameplay might be slow, but the puzzles and zip lash combat make up for it. This might not be the best 2D platformer ever, but at a low price, you could certainly do a lot worse.
It’s slow and uneven, but Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is a charming game filled with solid puzzles and action sequences.