NEW YORK -- Combine the adventures of Spider-Man with those of the ubiquitous Mario and you've got "Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash," an entertaining new game for the Nintendo 3DS system.
The premise is a fairly simple one: Extraterrestrials have invaded Earth and are robbing it of vital resources. They're also stealing snacks and leaving trash behind wherever they go. Chibi-Robo, a small silver robot normally used for servicing satellites, has been pressed into global service to combat the intruders.
The gamer dispatches Chibi-Robo to clean things up, collect coins and gather both battery power and the aforementioned snacks. Ultimately, the goal is to have the robot send his adversaries packing -- or, rather, blasting off, since they come and go in huge 1970s-style flying saucers.
"Chibi-Robo" is challenging and delightful, and its content is suitable for all ages. Thus, when the player succeeds in using Chibi-Robo to dispatch the aliens -- who resemble little appliances rather than scary monsters -- they vanish with a pop. This gore-free combat is in keeping with Nintendo's status as the most family-friendly of gaming companies.
"Chibi-Robo" is what's known as a "platform" game. Characters In this genre move horizontally and vertically through different levels, smashing obstacles and acquiring tools that help them progress upward to the next set of challenges.
Gameplay starts off slowly, but players who stick with it will be rewarded as the levels -- six in all -- become ever more complex and colorful. At one point, Chibi-Robo even goes airborne.
In response to a command from the console, Chibi-Robo pauses and charges up a weapon called the zip lash. This is a more powerful armament than its standard equivalent in other games, the plug strike. It allows Chibi-Robo to smash even large obstacles, including the giant cement blocks that frequently obstruct his path.
As the zip lash line grows longer and longer, the game becomes bouncier and more engaging. Wielding it, Chibi-Robo takes on the agility of a metallic Spider-Man, ricocheting off walls, launching off the heads of aliens and snagging desirable items from a distance.
As with most Nintendo games, the graphics are vibrant and beautiful.
The biggest drawback to "Chibi-Robo" concerns the way gamers advance to higher levels. The designers have included a spinning wheel that determines where Chibi-Robo will go next. It's a needless and confusing complication to what should have been a straightforward sequence based on accomplishment.
Another flaw, and this one may raise a red flag for parents, is the product placement embedded in the game. The invading aliens love snacks, and not generic ones either. Brand-name goodies pop up frequently, and Chibi-Robo delights in grabbing them as well.
These cameo appearances by various potato chips, candies and sodas are admittedly brief. They're also staggered at respectably long intervals. Yet, having parted with $30 for the game in the first place, parents may not appreciate this reinforcement of the junk-food peddling that already goes on all too frequently in other media.
The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is E -- Everyone.
Judge reviews video games and comic books for Catholic News Service.