Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash attempts to be an approachable platformer for everyone, but clunky controls and sluggish gameplay create a dull experience instead.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash faithfully recreates the look and feel of prior Chibi-Robo games, providing a nostalgic romp for fans of the series. Developed by skip Ltd. and Vanpool, the title is approachable for newcomers to the series, but rigid controls, odd level selection methods, and the slow pace may leave some frustrated and bored.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash bears enough similarities to other sidescrolling platformers to make most players feel comfortable right off the bat. The introductory level teaches the basics of gameplay fluidly, only offering control tips and helpful commentary from Chibi-Robo's sidekick, Telly, if the player encounters a new gameplay mechanic and doesn't proceed past it. As such, it does a good job of teaching the player how to play without holding their hand too tightly.
However, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash's problems begin immediately following the introductory stage. Instead of letting players move to the next level like any other platformer, gamers instead spin a wheel to determine which stage they'll move on to. This can make it so gamers unfamiliar with platformers end up skipping important introductory stages, or they may have to repeat certain stages in order to clear a level.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash's main gameplay mechanic will feel familiar to anyone who's played the likes of The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, or used the grappling hook from Just Cause. Chibi-Robo's power cord (zip lash) is its main weapon, and like with other games' grappling hooks, it can also be used for quick movement and retrieving items. Chibi-Robo can shoot out its zip lash a short distance, which is its main attack, or in a longer, charged-up attack that bounces off of certain surfaces to reach areas that initially look unreachable.
Unfortunately, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash has less-than-stellar controls. Its main zip lash attack can only be aimed at a limited number of angles, meaning that if Chibi-Robo is standing too close or too far away from what it's aiming at, the zip lash may not be able to point at the angle the player needs, even if it's close enough to reach it. This wouldn't be a big problem, except the circle pad is used to control the zip lash and Chibi-Robo's movement at the same time. Attempting to move Chibi-Robo while he's aiming the zip lash may result in accidentally adjusting the angle of the zip lash, and vice versa, resulting in a frustrating experience.
Chibi-Robo's stronger charged-up attack is easier to control, as players can manipulate the angle fully with the option to either use the circle pad or to use the D-pad to fine-tune the position of the zip lash. Moving isn't an option while charging up the attack, and given that players can point the zip lash at any angle they want, one wonders why the more detailed controls weren't given to the generic zip lash attack as well.
The zip lash itself can upgraded with pick-ups that will lengthen its reach scattered throughout the levels. However, at the end of every level, the zip lash will return to its original state, making the upgrades feel short-lived and somewhat pointless.
The game offers checkpoints on a fairly regular basis that players will return to if Chibi-Robo falls or runs out of energy. However, power up stations can also be occasionally found, where players can use watts collected from defeated enemies and recycled garbage to purchase extra batteries and jet packs, which recharge the energy meter and save players from a fall, respectively.
Various power-ups are also available in the game, which are generally received by reaching a power-up station and plugging in. Unfortunately, the power-ups are effectively scripted, only appearing when they're needed to proceed past certain enemies or blocks that can only be broken via the power-up. In addition, the Super Chibi-Robo mode from prior Chibi-Robo titles is available in this game, but it's only available through the use of the Chibi-Robo Amiibo.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash has all of the basics that can can make a platformer good, but unfortunately, the experience is marred by its basic gameplay and mechanics. Absolute beginners will be frustrated by the rigid controls, and more experienced gamers will be disappointed by the slow gameplay. While the game does offer side quests and collectibles for completionists, resetting the upgrades made to the zip lash at the end of each level takes away from the feeling of success and progress. Overall, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash doesn't live up to the fun and enjoyment of its predecessors, but Chibi-Robo fans will probably be able to enjoy the latest entry to the series' return.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is now available for the Nintendo 3DS. Game Rant was provided a copy for this review.