Zubo DS Review

Naaaa, naaaa, na naaaah, naa! *boom* *boom, spish, boom* Superbell!
Are you challenging me to a dance-off?!?! *Grrrrrr*
It’s a dance off folks!!!!! It’s the Thriller, the dance of healing, the juggling fart blast, and my personal favourite, the hat trick complete with Zubo crushing giant cuboid cow, splat! There are cuboid ducks too…….

If Run-DMC taught us anything, it’s that the world would be a much better place if conflicts were sorted out by dance-offs rather than, M16s, knifes and nukes. Well, depends I guess but considering how much this game made me laugh out loud (so strange to see it in full) it would be foolish to not consider! Since rhythm games have made such an impact over the last 5 years or so it’s surprising that there haven’t been more attempts at bringing them into adventure titles. Zubo is a bold and colourful attempt at this with an entire battle system in an otherwise standard fair adventure game based on rhythmic inputs. Not only this, but it also adds an innovative approach to one of the most staid of genres: the RPG.

Ok, hang on, I’ll do bit of explaining first. In Zubo you play an unfortunate kid that’s been sucked into the fantasy world Zubalon populated with creatures known as Zubos. These odd, colourful Vauxhall C’mon/ LEGO looking guys need your help in defeating the Zombos, fake Zubos. You must explore this world collecting the 55 different Zubos through 10 different areas. The little guys are mostly cute charactertures of famous icons: Judy Nails, Robocop, Bruce Lee, James Bond, Alice, Thriller Zombie, Indiana Jones to name a few. Each has their own move set most of which are totally, “the lulz”. As you successfully execute each rhythmic tap you lay into your opponent in a variety of over the top slapstick ways. One move sees you blasting your adversary with a giant speaker amp, while another charmingly has you farting in time to the music, with devastating results. Imagine a giant Robocop Zubo beating the living snot out of Alice or the Bruce Lee Zubo performing a Trinity style flying slow mo kick, followed by a Hadouken. These battles can also be played against a friend in multiplayer mode, but you both need a cartridge (you create a party using the Zubos you’ve collected in single player) so I didn’t get a chance to try it out. All of this silliness is funked out with great music during the battles which is evilly catchy and corresponds well to the moves, headphones are a must have. Presentation and humour are abounds in this game. It had me giggling like a pixie when I tapped on a skull in the Horror zone, which started a “Murray the Abominable Skull” laugh, oh yes. This game is very very silly and the humour will appeal to adults and children alike……

The adventure side of things, however, are sadly not as interesting, with most events involving good old “fetch the item” and “bash in the bad dudes” quests. The progression is very linear with a bit of tedious back tracking via a hub system for good measure. There is also little reward for searching the oddly empty gameworld which I found disappointing and finding nothing important to collect other than the Zubos. This is all tied together with a pretty inconsequential story and thin dialogue which brings the experience down a few pegs. Having said that it’s not all uninspired, there are some cool aspects to the puzzles which use the microphone and involve interacting with the gameworld, “play back the tune” on a drum kit for example. It’s just a little disappointing after the hilarity of the energetic battles to be presented with such a dry adventure experience.

The game has a great comic look and is fully touchscreen based which I salute, and the battle system is as responsive as a gamer on Jolt. However, exploring the maps can be frustrating with corners catching your character, frequent loading screens and the inventory screen sometimes exiting for seemingly no reason. This is especially annoying when feeding your party of Zubos to heal them. Sometimes the camera angle is so far out that dropping a banana on the right Zubo can be tricky or not even register. It’s well worth it when you get it right though, there is something oddly satisfying about watching the wee guys jump around in glee after a feed. A good point to make about the battle system, which is basically a rock, paper stone system (fighter, defence, performer) with status aliments, is that it is very simple. While it is hugely amusing, the level of difficulty is not high and tactics rarely get more complex than using the right Zubo to counter the enemy. Just don’t expect Final Fantasy Tactics levels of difficulty here.

Zubo is an interesting and fresh IP that will delight kids and adults with the ridiculous rhythm battle system despite the ropey adventure elements. In the undoubtable sequel, if they can couple the rhythm battles with a better adventure design this will potentially be a great game. As it stands, if you’re looking for a fun game to introduce a child to the world of RPGs, it gets a big thumbs up. For the rest of us, steal it from said child for a quick blast and a well deserved giggle.

Now, I must get back to my dance moves. I suspect that the apocalypse will involve drumnbass and some hefty dubstep..