Zubo (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
For a long time now publishers have largely ignored original IPs, which is why you get so many TV, cartoon and movie tie-ins released for the DS. The reason for this is simple - while gamers are unlikely to take a risk on a new type of game or character, they are more than willing to fork out for a game based on the latest action flick regardless of its quality. In fact most gamers actually buy titles of this nature, not because they've read a good review but because they enjoyed the movie itself. So it was a bit surprising when Zubo landed on my desk; a new IP and an original take on the RPG genre, or so it says on the PR blurb.
Zubo sets itself up as a kind of RPG/Adventure but don't let that put you off as there's not nearly as much number crunching as you'd expect. Initially your main objective is exploration when you'll encounter your first Zubo to befriend. You can have up to three Zubo buddies at any one time that can be swapped in your inventory and, almost as soon as you've hooked up with one, you begin a variety of challenges or side quests such as finding someone of locating an object. These allow you to slowly discover the world you inhabit whilst also getting to grips with the gameplay so as you progress you find yourself undertaking multiple jobs at any one time. The worlds themselves are huge and varied and, due to locked gates and other obstacles, you'll probably spend a considerable amount of time in a single area. As with all games of this nature you also have to discover how to 'balance' things in order for your team to remain strong and healthy. For example: do you spend your credits on food or power up ,and who will do the most damage in battle? These types of questions can only really be answered once you've spent some time with the game bit and when you've completely exhausted the single player part, there's the opportunity to go head to head with a friend.
Zubo is another title that shuns the traditional control system in favor of a more 'experimental' stylus driven method so there's little point in reading this section any further.
The 3D environments are well rendered despite the fact that the camera isn't always in the position you'd like. The real highlights though are the various animations that accompany the handful of fighting moves which each of the Zibos possess. Most of these are lifted from the Tex Avery book of visual gags but they are so well thought out that even after viewing them six or seven times you'll still be smiling.
There's a huge variety of sound effects and music and all of it is of an incredibly high quality, so do yourself a favor, grab some headphones and find yourself a quiet corner.
Everything (including movement) is controlled using the stylus with varied degrees of success and while the open areas are simple enough to run around, some of the more enclosed paths can be problematic and you'll occasionally get stuck for no reason at all. Elsewhere the various inventory and menu sections work well enough but you'll really give your stylus a workout when you enter into anyone of the battles. You have to use a variety of moves (each character has their own) to eliminate the evil Zombos, of whom there can be up to three, with increasing amounts of health and power indicated above their names by a number. Above your Zubo's name you'll have your health and also the moves that are available along with the damage they will do, although some are only available after earning power-pills for earlier battles. This may sound complicated but it's actually very effective as what is sometimes overwhelming in other similar games is actually very intuitive here.
Not surprisingly Zubo is refreshingly entertaining and the developers have struck a pleasing balance with the rhythm/fighting sections both of which are easy to play but more challenging to master. Our only real gripe is with the control system, which can be a little irritating at times. The other problems with the game are minor really, and aspects such as the script and adventure sections could have done with a little more care taken over them, but overall this is an impressive effort and if this does do the numbers (as they say in the business) then it's almost guaranteed that these problems will be addressed in the sequel.
Pro: Great Visuals and Animation.
Con: Awkward Stylus Control When Moving Around.
Final score: 7.3
|Developer:||EA Bright Light|