Zubo is an attempt to bring the grand-scale adventure of role-playing games to a younger audience. The vibrant visuals, colorful cast of characters, and action-oriented combat make the adventure immediate and satisfying, coaxing you to see what new environment lies before you or what strange character you might befriend along the way. The long and expansive journey affords you a good opportunity to explore the exotic world that you travel through, but this breadth is also one of the game's greatest hindrances. The pacing is compromised by too much backtracking and ill-defined objectives, which can make the adventure drag at times. Despite this uneven momentum, the unique combat and playful presentation make Zubo an enjoyable introduction to role-playing.
You play as a generic boy or girl on a quest to save the planet Zubalon from a race of angry creatures called Zubos. However, the story does little more than set the stage for why you are battling these little creatures. There's not much of an attempt to flesh out the backstory of this warring land, so the imaginative world that you explore is never fully developed. Instead, the story exists to shuffle you from one objective to the next, without much exposition. The lack of character development is even more disheartening. The characters that you team up with are all ripped from popular folktales, so there are easily recognizable parodies of Count Dracula, Captain Ahab, and Little Red Riding Hood, among others. However, the game doesn't take advantage of this unique cast. Instead of having these disparate personalities play off of each other, they remain largely silent. Although neither the sparse story nor the quiet characters kill the fun, the absence of a catchy narrative feels like a missed opportunity. It would have been interesting to see how this odd menagerie fits together.
The story may hide sheepishly in the background, but the action-packed combat does a good job of keeping this adventure interesting. Your attacks are handled in a rhythmic manner, which gives you the kind of direct control absent from many other turn-based RPGs. Every one of your moves features elaborate choreography, and as the characters perform pirouettes and flying leaps, you tap along on the touch screen. A series of concentric circles slowly closes around your character, indicating when to tap the screen. The more precise your timing is, the more damage you can dish out, which makes the battles engaging. There is one slight hiccup: The prompts don't follow the rhythm of the music, which makes your tapping feel out of place at times. Like the forgettable story, this doesn't destroy the fun, but it feels like another missed opportunity.
Nevertheless, the combat isn't all about happily tapping the screen. There is a surprising amount of depth in these duels, which makes conquering the trickier foes satisfying. You have a variety of different moves at your disposal, including healing spells, strength boosters, and forced sleep, and juggling between them requires a bit of thought. As you perform basic attacks, you build up a supply of power pills, which give you access to more powerful moves. Your foes have the same moves, though, so you will frequently have to steal their power pills or stun enemies to keep them from unleashing deadly blows. Once you learn a move, any of your characters can include it in his or her four-move repertoire, which gives you plenty to think about before fights begin. Offensive and defensive moves each have their own strengths and weaknesses, so for instance, if none of your characters have a sound-based attack, you can be stymied by your enemy's shields. These dynamics force you to be flexible, and its rewarding to create a clever hodgepodge of specialists to help you conquer your foes.