Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
When the original Chibi-Robo was introduced on the GameCube many years ago, it created an endearing new hero, a delightful little robot that fought for the sake of the environment while still emitting this sort of charm that few manufactured characters had at the time. It's been a few years since we've seen Chibi in action, but Nintendo felt compelled to give him another chance, this time in the side-scrolling 3DS adventure Zip Lash.
In this new adventure, Chibi is pitted against aliens that are doing harm to the Earth's environment by stealing its resources. It sounds like a grand set-up for a sequel to his original adventure but sadly, Zip Lash can't quite measure up to its inventiveness.
Unplug and Play
Starting up Zip Lash, there are some interesting elements at play, like Chibi's assistant, who speaks in gibberish as he eggs you on about picking up garbage and finding little assistants to collect. There are also some unique parts of stage design, such as "unplugging" into panels to reveal prizes and extending the reach of your cord so that you can latch onto higher parts of a stage and find even more goodies.
However, the appeal of the game's level design never really expands. You pretty much end up doing most of the same thing throughout the game, collecting whatever you come across and battling enemies with a quick whip attack. The vehicle sections try to add some variety (more on those in a second), but for the most part, the game fails to generate any sort of spark that other Nintendo platformers easily possess.
There are some neat ideas with the gameplay, like extending Chibi's cord long enough so that it can hit multiple panels in a puzzle, or the ending part of the stage, where you have to hit specific UFO's to get more turns on a movement wheel, but for the most part, it becomes repetitive.
On top of that, the person who designed the world system for Zip Lash probably wanted people to suffer as they complete each one. You don't simply go and select levels here; instead, you have to spin a wheel in order to land on levels you didn't complete. It's a game of chance that doesn't pay off, mainly because, if you're wrong or don't get to spin again, you have to go through a level you've already beaten. Talk about unnecessary tedium. The UFO mini-game I mentioned helps you get extra turns, but unless you're a nimble spinner, that still doesn't guarantee you'll complete the world any quicker.
A Little Variety, But Not Enough
As I mentioned above, there are vehicle stages that try to mix up the action, including water skiing, balloon riding, and even skateboarding to try and build momentum.
Unfortunately, most of these activities are paired with a strange control system that doesn't work in the game's favor. The team should've stuck with a basic gameplay set-up for each one that didn't frustrate players each time they crashed into something. Water skiing seems to fare the best, although that particular section of the game ends too soon for its own good.
The boss battles are also kind of cool, as you'll battle some strange creatures in your quest and come up with some neat ways to bring them down. Unfortunately, they too are over before they begin, due to the game's ease of difficulty. In fact, you'll probably blow through everything Zip Lash has to offer in an afternoon – a far cry from what the original GameCube game provided.
Brought To You By…Utz?
Zip Lash does give you the opportunity to collect quite a bit of content in the game, from coins to mini-assistants running wild to garbage – you know, to help the environment. But perhaps the cheesiest inclusion is with the candies, as you actually pick up branded candies featured in the game to hand off to toys for extra coins.
Sure, some games are sponsored, I get that. But I just don't feel that the candies really have a place here. They could've easily been replaced with something else to add some usefulness (or, at the very least, chuckles – imagine Chibi's reaction to chocolate covered pretzels). Instead, it just feels like a cheap add-on…and plus, it makes you hungry for Japanese snacks that you can't easily get your hands on.
Outside of that, the game never really feels like it offers any value in what you collect. Sure, you earn stars and what not, but there's no real sense of progression to make you feel like you're moving forward. Instead, Chibi just rolls with the motions – and it's over before you know it.