Titles so unique that they don’t really fall under a category are nothing new to Nintendo, especially when it comes to Chibi-Robo!.
Unfortunately, the series has had a hard time getting on its feet despite a solid debut on the GameCube. A lack of marketing combined with a questionable partnership with Walmart to distribute Chibi Robo! Park Patrol also contributed to its lack of attention, but Nintendo is giving the tiny tidy-upper robot one more shot. Will Chibi-Robo! finally shine?
What Is It?
Chibi-Robo! is just a strange series. Making its debut on the GameCube, the game puts you in control of a tiny robot roughly the size of a screw. Its purpose? It’s no different than Disney Pixar’s Wall-E. Its job is to keep its surroundings completely clean and hazard-free. The series’ original play style was a cross between that of a 3D platformer and Pikmin, mainly due to the fact that the robot’s small size compared with the rest of the world.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, on the other hand, changes everything as a full-on 2D sidescrolling platformer with light puzzle solving. It doesn’t have the same unique feel that previous games in the series have had, but it still retains some of its charm.
Microscopic alien machines have taken over the world, and humans are unaware of the damage these machines are causing, so only Chibi-Robo can save the day. Yep, it’s Nintendo’s signature sidescroller with a forced story that has no part in motivating you to play the game.
Why Should I Care?
Given that the series has always been abstract, it’s probably safe to assume that the people thinking about picking this up are those that have already played previous games in the series. If this is the case, it might come off as disappointing to know that the original gameplay mechanics and formula have disappeared. It’s really just a sidescroller now.
The game has some “Metroidvania” qualities, mainly due to a light emphasis on exploration as well as the fact that all the combat is done with Chibi’s plug and cord that works like the Belmont whip and Samus Aran’s grappling hook.
The plug and cord are put to use with two buttons, which is sort of confusing because they’re basically the same thing. The X button is primarily used for attacking an enemy in front of you or diagonally, and it can also be used to pull you up platforms that aren’t too high. The Y button does the same thing, with the main difference being that you can charge it to have the cord be longer (depending on how many of the scattered cord power-ups you’ve collected throughout every level), and you can also aim it anywhere you want. This is the game’s primarily gimmick that separates it from any other platformer in the genre, and it works really well. The only problem is with its difficulty to adjust your aiming while traveling, which can result in failed attempts to grapple blocks or even accidental death.
It might make sense to use the Y button for almost everything as you can freely aim with it, and it bounces in different trajectories depending on the angle of where you’re letting it go. The main flaw to is you can’t move around while using this zip lash technique.
As previously started, players will be collecting boost balls throughout each stage that lengthen Chibi’s cord, allowing Chibi to pull itself across long chasms or platformers otherwise beyond reach. So not only is the zip lash method required to clear stages, it’s your key if you’re into completing fetch quests. If you’re not into collecting every little thing there is to find, then the game will definitely be on the easy side. But if you are into the whole completionist way of gaming, there’s a lot to like about the game.
Each level and world is built rather simply, so hardcore gamers probably won’t die unless they accidentally fall in a hole. They also come equipped with a limited number of miniature robots, giant coins, trash, and snacks to find that are oftentimes hidden from regular view. In fact, if you don’t have your 3D settings on, you won’t even see the visual imperfections. Therefore, it might be a good idea to turn on the 3D just a little bit.
There are three UFO’s at the end of every level that’ll give you a different point total — one gold, one silver, and one bronze. The more valuable the UFO, the smaller it is. To clear the level, you have to hit any one of them with your plug. Not only is this a good icebreaking puzzle, they also give you a number of spins to select which level to head to next.
So basically, you’re hardly ever going through each level in succession. For example, after clearing 1-1, you won’t necessarily go to 1-2 unless your spin on the wheel following 1-1 hits 1. Each world features six levels, and your spaceship can only travel the number of spaces that match the number you’ve spun on the roulette. On top of that, you only get access to the world’s boss if you clear all six levels. So it won’t be out of the ordinary to have to go through a level you just played. While that’s pretty dumb, rarely will you ever clear each level perfectly, so it’s a good second opportunity. You’ll eventually earn the right to choose whichever level to play in, but that’s only if you defeat that particular world’s boss.
The boss fights are rather easy for the most part, as the weak spots are always highlighted, but clearing each one still gives you a slight sense of accomplishment, so there isn’t much to complain about with the bosses.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
While the game is definitely a joy to play, it’s hard to really justify its $40 cost because it feels like a game that could’ve just been bought digitally. If you pick the game up during its release window, a Chibi-Robo! amiibo comes packed with it. Amiibo are roughly $13 each, so is the game worth $27? Maybe. In fact, that’s the only reason why I’d justify picking up a copy of the game this early.
The Chibi-Robo amiibo doesn’t drastically change gameplay, but again, if you’re a completionist, you’ll need it. The amiibo gives you the ability to turn into Super Chibi-Robo to go through stages with ease, and it also allows you to unlock the Toy Capsule Machine in your UFO to unlock in-game collectable figures.
In the end, Chibi-Robo! is simply a fine game that’s incredibly fun to play, especially if you’re a gamer that likes to find goodies in every nook and cranny of the game’s colorful courses. It’s just incredibly short with a level selection system that feels forced and sluggish.