Another day, another spin-off title that Nintendo fans didn’t want. Spin-offs aren’t inherently terrible, Nintendo has pulled them off plenty of times before, but Chibi-Robo wasn’t a franchise that needed one. But why is that? Fans love Chibi-Robo right? And Nintendo knows platforming, right? How could the company that pretty much invented it screw it up? Short answer: They didn’t, but that doesn’t matter. If Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash did platforming fine, why wasn’t it the hit Nintendo wanted it to be?
- I haven’t played the original Chibi-Robo games, so I can’t compare back to how the original’s played. I do know that this is a real departure from the originals gameplay style. This Chibi-Robo is a platformer, and as far as platforming goes it gets the job done. The actual platforming mechanics are solid. The zip and whip mechanics work. But they don’t feel particularly innovative either.
- The spin-wheel mechanic for choosing stages plainly does not work. My original thought was “Wait, why do I have to do it like this?”. Then I thought “OK, maybe they are trying to force progression... so I don’t keep replaying levels to 100% them the first time through”. Then, it happened. I was forced to replay a level. Twice. And I thought “Wait, why did they make me do it like this?” I’m honestly baffled. This seems like the single silliest mechanic that could be implemented in a simple platforming game. It makes progression a slog. 0/10, Do not implement again Nintendo.
- Along with the platforming, some levels feature vehicles including a skateboard, surfboard, and submarine. These usually worked and never overstayed their welcome. My only gripe being that the sub had an unusually momentum to it. It was slow to get going and you had to actively pull back to avoid obstacles at times.
- There are collectables everywhere. Within each level the game wants you to find coins and Chibi-Tots, as well as a smorgasbord of real-world brand candy. I’m not sure how Nintendo managed it, but I found the candy placement pretty endearing. And after finding the candy, you deliver it to toys who provide trivia and cute dialogue.
- After completing a level once you can replay it to find a lost alien baby. Every time you find the baby it gives you a number in a five part code. The idea was that players would share the code in miiverse to help each other complete it. It’s nice in theory, but finding the baby gets tedious fast and I ended up just googling them. After you complete the code, finding the alien baby one last time would give you a cute costume.
- Along with the previous collectables, players with the Chibi-Robo amiibo can also access a figurine capsule machine. I don’t care for collectables that are randomized. I think it’s unfair and wastes the player’s time unless you’re guaranteed a new figurine each time. If you assumed I didn’t like the capsule machine, you’re right.
- The amiibo also works as a power-up that, when tapped during a level, turns him into “Super Chibi-Robo”. It’s fine, if not a bit cheat-y. Each time you complete a level you can add your score to the amiibo, upgrading his level (Up to 6). Each upgrade allows you to use the power-up more often during a day.
Nintendo seems to want to manage Chibi-Robo in the same way they’ve managed Kirby; as a moldable character that fits easily into different gameplay styles and genres. The problem is Nintendo already has Kirby. Chibi-Robo fans are already Kirby fans. And those same Chibi-Robo fans want to play a title more in-line with the original. It’s definitely a case of Nintendo getting in it’s own way of supporting a franchise.
That aside, Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash does fine. It’s a decent game, and has a low barrier to entry. But the Chibi-Robo franchise isn’t big enough for this kind of spin-off, and without the continued production of it’s “main series” (as far as we can call it that, now that half the titles are spin-offs) I don’t think Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is going to do anything for the franchise to survive.
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JpSr388 is a casual(ish) gaymer, hardcore Nintendo fan, designer & writer. He writes about what he cares about, and is always good for some opinions. Find his sexy ass on Twitter here. Or keep on the lookout for more editorial, QuickDraws, Hot Takes and reviews here.