Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
Zubo is a light hearted RPG with rhythm based battles. With such a concoction you might be forgiven for thinking the end result might be a strange one but Zubo is a solid game that should appeal to more than just the younger gamers it's been aimed at. It's a game that's simple to play and yet it requires a good sense of timing if you're to get the most out of the battle system.
In Zubo you can choose to play as a boy or girl. The game begins with your character suddenly appearing in mid-air and falling straight into a duck pond. As you climb out of the pond you're greeted by a hologram of a creature known as Zubo 1. Zubo 1 has transported you from your world to Zubalon to help both Zubalon and its inhabitants, the Zubos. The Zubos need your help to defeat an army of Zubo clones, called Zombos, who are under the command of the evil Big Head. Throughout the course of the game you'll explore the ten Worlds of Zubalon, which are themed, and you'll become acquainted with over fifty Zubos (you can only have three in your party at any one time but you can swap them out for any you've parted company with at any time), enabling you to form an effective party with which to battle the Zombos.
The highlight of the game is definitely the turn-based battle system. Each Zubo has their own attacks but carrying out the attacks as efficiently as possible requires a good sense of timing. During an attack you'll select which Zubo you want to attack with and then select which attack they will use and finally touch the button again to carry out the attack. There's a bit more to it than that however. As the attack is being carried out an outline will appear around your Zubo. A battle prompt will also appear and close in on your Zubo's outline. The idea is to tap anywhere on the screen when the battle prompt and the outline meet (more advanced attacks can require you to hold the stylus on the screen for a short duration). The better your timing, the better your score and it also enables you to earn power pills which are required to perform the stronger attacks. During an attack you'll have to do this several times. Should your timing be great for all of the attack you may even earn a 'Lucky Streak' which gives you a second consecutive attack. Your Zubos will level-up and as they level up they will acquire more powerful attacks.
Whilst the game may initially seem too simple, it does become more involving. Stronger attacks can have several battle prompts closing in on your Zubo's outline and you'll need to tap several times in time and in quick succession to carry out an attack at full strength. There are also three different types of Zubo. There are the Yellow Attackers, Green Defenders and Pink Performers. Attackers are strong against Performers, Performers are strong against Defenders whilst Defenders have the advantage over Attackers. During a battle you'll see small plus and minus symbols placed next to your Zubos, when you select them, which highlights whether or not they have an advantage or disadvantage against your current opponent.
As enjoyable as Zubo is, there are some aspects of the game that could have been better. Whilst the battles are enjoyable the exploration isn't so good. The camera, which you can't alter, can be troublesome at times. Most of the time it's zoomed in really close meaning you'll need to keep an eye on the area map (displayed on the top screen) to get your bearings. This isn't a problem, although it can be a little irritating. There are times however (such as when your party goes on stage at a rock concert early in the game) when the camera is zoomed all the way out and you can hardly see your party and it's awkward to navigate them off stage. The exploration side of the game is a little dull and hasn't been fleshed out as well as it could have been. Whilst the mini-games you'll play during the course of the game are OK, they don't really add much to the experience and the game wouldn't have suffered had they not been included. It's also a little disappointing to find the game has only one save slot which prevents anyone in the same household from enjoying the game too (which is especially important with a game aimed at children).
The presentation of the game is absolutely fine. You'll perform every action in the game with the stylus and it's about as intuitive as it could be. The visual style used in Zubo is actually quite pleasing and the screenshots don't really do it justice. The characters in the game are reminiscent of the characters in the LEGO games and yet they do have their own distinctive cheeky look. The battle scenes are actually quite humorous. That said however, it's good to see that you can fast forward your enemy attacks to keep the battles moving at a swift pace.
There is no speech in the game and all of the dialogue is text only. All tutorial messages are in text. Objectives are shown in text too, and can be recalled at any time. You're also notified in text when an objective has been completed. All of this means that the game is fine for deaf gamers. You're also given text feedback during an attack to show you how good your timing was. The possible results you can earn being Miss, Early, OK, Sweet and Super Sweet. Icons are also used to show status effects. When you begin a new game you get a message that advises you to wear headphones. Naturally I thought there was going to be some issues for deaf gamers but I had no problem playing the game without sound.
If you're looking for something different for your DS, Zubo could well be the answer. The game will appeal to those who enjoy and those who normally don't enjoy RPGs because of its fun and addictive battle system that remain enjoyable throughout. Don't make the mistake of thinking it's just a game aimed at young children. Whilst young children may be the game's target audience, it's a game that even adults can enjoy and find hard to put down. The game does have a few problems but there's nothing that really harms the experience. The game also provides support for local multiplayer battling (which we haven't covered in this review as one copy of the game per player is required). All things considered then, Zubo could well be one of the most pleasant surprises on the Nintendo DS this year.