This game cleverly blends turn-based role-playing mechanics typically found in the popular Pokemon games with the quick-reflex action mechanics pioneered in rhythm action games like "Elite Beat Agents. The result is a highly entertaining adventure that both kids and adults will enjoy.
You enter the 3D world of Zubalon as either a hero or heroine. Your avatar will follow the DS stylus wherever you move it. As you explore the 10 different lands that make up Zubalon, you will encounter over 50 Zubos, rounded Lego-like inhabitants with expressive faces. The Zubos seek your help in ridding their world of the evil Big Head and his army of mischief-causing Zombos. Each Zubo that you befriend wants to help you scare away the Zombos, which sets up the game's battle system.
To rid the world of Zombos, you must defeat them in a comedic battle. This is the heart of the game and where it shines for originality. Battling in this game does not mean using traditional guns and swords to inflict wounds, rather, Zubos use funny gags to knock out their opponents or send them running. That is why you will see a Zubo place a bouquet of flowers under the nose of its opponent to make him sneeze his way out of the battle field, or bounce on top of an opponent and spin him so hard that he rolls off-screen like a twirling top. Each Zubo has four battle gags, and the game showcases these funny battle moves in over 100 short animations.
Also unique to this combat system is the introduction of rhythm games while battling. As your Zubo goes through his funny animated battle moves, a red outline appears around its body. Periodically, a larger orange glowing outline will appear and contracts until it meets the red outline. Your goal is to tap the screen when the two lines meet to increase your battle score.
You take three Zubos into a battle. Sometimes they will face one Zombo, but there may be as many as three. The battle is turn-based where you choose which of your three Zubos you are going to use, and then select from its available moves. Different moves inflict different amounts of damage, depending on how you do in the rhythm aspect of the battle.
Also relevant is the class and level of Zubo you are using in battle. Both Zubos and Zombos come in levels of strength from one to 20, and both come in one of three classes: Fighters, Defenders, and Performers. The battle mechanic has a "Rock, Paper, Scissors" aspect to it in that Fighters are stronger than Performers, Performers are stronger against Defenders, and Defenders are stronger against Fighters. Winning battles gains your Zubo experience so that it can increase in level. So, to win a battle you must use logic to choose which Zubo to pit against which Zombo, quick reflexes to time your musical taps, and do all of this while laughing at the over-the-top antics of the characters while battling. It's fun.
In addition to this innovative battle system, the game has an engaging storyline, which is broken into quests and tasks. There are also several minigames placed throughout the lands.
Part of this game's charm is that each Zubo has a unique personality. The Zubos come from the 10 different lands, which are themed, so in the Horror Land you will find Hunchy, a Zubo based on the Hunchback of Notre Dame; and in Pop Land you will find Pinky, a pop star. You need to take care of your Zubos by finding or earning musical notes, their currency, so that you can buy food to restore a Zubo's health after a battle. You can swap out Zubo friends as you go, but only three can travel with you at a time.
If two friends each own this game, they can battle against each other with their Zubos using the Nintendo DS wireless connection. But unlike the Pokemon games, there is no trading of Zubos.
Zubo is rated "E+10" because some of the battle gags have crude humor such as using farts, and the animations show mild cartoon-like violence.
Kudos to Electronic Arts for creating the endearing Zubos, a story-driven reason to play rhythm games, and a deep, innovative combat system that uses gags instead of gore.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.