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Zubo is an adventure game in the style of Pokemon: Diamond/Pearl, although it is presented for a younger western audience. This delivers engaing 3D visuals and a simple scissors paper stone driven battles.
Adventure games are enjoyed for two reasons: they provide enemy encounters that require tactics and strategy to conquor, and they create a fantasy world in which to explore and adventure.
Other games have twined the simplistic 'scissors-paper-stone' approach to fighting enemies in adventure games, but Zubo is one of the best communicated and understandable examples. Here, you need to match the appropriate (Fist, Shield or Dance) character to the type of enemy to maximise your chance of winning. You then select one of the imaginatively constructed attacks that range from loud rock guitar to feather tickling.
On top of this simple structure is placed a tap in time with the music play mechanic. Here, players must tap the bottom screen in time with the music (and a visual indicator) to achieve the maximum damage. This adds a bit of interest to the fights that could otherwise be a little formulaic.
The 3D visuals have been seen before in games like Zelda: Phantom Hourglass DS, but again are impressivley implemented. From the quirky attacks in combat to the character-ful environments, the visuals really give an added incentive to get involved with the game.
As you work through the different environments you collect together a chosen band of Zubos to fight for you. These can then be levelled up to aquire new moves. Keep them well fed between battles, make some sensible choices in battle, and you'll soon find yourself caring about your merry band of characters.
Players are attracted to Zubo because of it's combination of adventuring and role play mechanics. The directness of control that emerges from the simple character selection, imaginative attacks and tap along delivery makes Zubo a lot of fun to play. As players get into the groove with the attack controls they are able to fine tune their approach and enjoy the excellent animations. At this point the game really starts to come together, and make sense as a whole.
Zubo is a game that really can be played in whatever spare time is available. Although it has the more-ish quality of games like Pokemon and Zelda, the lighter approach and simpler story mean it demands less of players. As things develop, players will find their sessions extending, but action can be saved at any point to ensure interuptions are never problematic.
Very young players may find the tactics required of the battle sections a little complex. If they can play with an older sibling they will enjoy the general exploration and discovery of the game world. Some consideration should be given to the dark cartoon angular ghoulish enemies which have a possibiliy of unsettling sensitive youngsters.
Older kids and intermediate players will find this game well pitched for them. The action is controlled exclusivley with the stylus which certainly lowers the barrier to entry. Those that haven't played an action adventure of this nature will find this an excellent introduction to the genre.
Experts may find the visuals and hand holding beginnings a little patronising. Those that stick with it though will find a challenging adventure game beneath the child-friendly gloss. Those for whom this is a family-friendly bridge too far, will be better suited by Zelda: Phantom Hourglass DS or Pokemon: Diamond/Pearl DS.
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