By Jason Wadsworth
At first glance Zubo might look like just another Pokemon clone for the Nintendo DS, but after just a few minutes with the game, players will find a charming fusion of Saturday morning cartoons with “my first RPG” and some rhythm action to pull it all together.
Zubo may not be for the hardcore RPG enthusiast, but it certainly has lots to offer both kids and adults looking for an accessible RPG to cut their teeth on.
Find a full review of Zubo after the jump.
Zubo casts the player as young boy or girl and introduces them into the world of Zubalon which is populated by the squat, cartoony Zubos. Zubalon has recently found itself plagued by evil Zubo-clones called Zombos under the direction of the villainous Big Head. As the hero, and apparently the only character in the game over two feet tall, players must help the Zubos fight back against Big Head and clear Zubalon of the Zombo infestation.
While the game’s story is one you’ll see in many other RPGs, the characters and interactions you have with them would fit right in with any Saturday morning cartoon. As caricatures of many well-known pop-culture and entertainment icons – like a kung-fu fighter reminiscent of Bruce Lee and reincarnations of almost every classic Hollywood monster – the 50 plus Zombos are each unique and entertaining in their own way. This is mostly due to the game’s superb character design which allows each Zubo to express a wide range of emotions while retaining their individual personalities.
The game’s Zombo, Zubo-clone enemies are literally just that; clones. They’re nothing more than pallet swaps of the Zubos with the same attacks and abilities, which is unfortunate because with such interesting character design in the game, it would have been nice to see some interesting enemies.
On their quest, players befriend and collect new Zubos, each with their own various attacks and abilities, and swap them in and out of the 3-Zombo team that makes up their in-game entourage and battle group.
The game consists of simple RPG elements blended with a rhythmic turn-based combat system. Zubos gain experience and level up as they participate in each battle against their Zombo counterparts. Zubo attacks are chosen from a typical turn-based RPG menu, but the damage each attack does is determined by how well players can tap out prompted rhythm phrases on their DS screen. Players familiar with other rhythm action games like Elite Beat Agents will recognize the shrinking outlines marking the rhythm beats that must be tapped out on the touch screen. The outer line shrinks towards the inner outline of the Zubo, and players must tap on the screen as the two meet. Depending on how accurate their taps are, players receive damage/ability bonuses and extra turns. As Zubos level up, their attacks and abilities become more powerful, and harder to successfully execute.
Tapping out Zubo moves could become repetitive and boring, but variations are worked into the game as the player progresses. The rhythm phrases used to complete Zubo moves start out simple and progressively get more complex as the Zubos level-up and the moves become more powerful. With accurate tapping, players will also receive “power pills” which allow access to the games most powerful attacks and abilities.
Since rhythm is such an important part of the game, it’s fortunate that the developers put a lot of work into the game’s soundtrack. There are several original songs that play during battle, and each provides a satisfying background to the action. The game’s theme is catchy and each different song players hear as they battle will have them tapping their foot as well as the touch screen.
The game’s missions, or quests, tend to boil down to simple fetch quests; find this many of this, find a key to that, get this thing and bring it to this person. Also, while the games environments are varied and vivid, the player is usually fenced in and exploration is not allowed or even needed. This makes for a very linear RPG experience which may frustrate experienced role players, but which might be helpful to those less familiar with the genre.
Zubo ultimately provides a competent and enjoyable RPG-lite experience which kids will certainly enjoy. Adults who are looking for a easy-going, friendly RPG will likely enjoy Zubo too. The RPG elements can get a little dry, but the action rhythm elements paired with the collection and progression of Zubos will keep players entertained as they tap and battle their way through the game.
Zubo is rated E 10+ and is suitable to children 10 and older. Zubo is published by EA and is available now.
Married Gamers Review Grade for Zubo: B