Game review by
Jinny Gudmundsen, Common Sense Media
Zubo Game Poster Image
Pokemon-like battle game is funnier, with less violence.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

You are a hero or heroine that saves the world of Zubalon from the evil clutches of the Big Head and his army of mischief-creating Zombos. Your method of defeating the bad guys is to beat them in a gag-fest.

Violence & Scariness

This battle system involves doing funny things to your opponent. You may tickles him with a feather, or jump on him and spin him around so fast that he goes careening out of the battle arena like a twirling top. Sometimes your battling Zubo will morph into a gorilla that beats on an opponent, but it looks like cartoon violence where characters fall over seeing stars float above their heads. One gag uses farts to defeat your opponent. No weapons, and no blood.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a combat game with very little violence. Instead of battling with swords and other weapons to inflict harm, characters battle with humorous gags to chase away or knock out their enemies. The ESRB rating of E10+ for crude humor shows up in a few gags that involve farts. And the mild cartoon violence shows up in gags that involve hitting another with a tennis ball or punching someone in a cartoon manner that causes them to see stars. No one is permanently hurt or dies, they're just defeated. Most of the gags are humorous like holding flowers under a character's nose to make him sneeze his way out of the arena. Plus, the battles themselves aren't about pushing buttons on a controller to do violence; they are about using quick reflexes to play a musical rhythm game. The game applies the popular turned-based battle mechanic, but turns it into a less violent game because the method of battle is humorous -- using gags instead of gore.

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What's it about?

ZUBO, a new game from Electonic Arts, takes the collect-creatures-and-have-them-fight-for-you game mechanic that made Pokemon games so popular, and adds humor and music rhythm minigames to the mix to create a truly special Nintendo DS game for kids. Kids enter as a hero or heroine destined to save the world of Zubalon from ruin by the evil Big Head and his army of mischief-causing Zombos. As you explore this world, you will meet over 50 Zubos who want to join your cause. To rid the world of Zombos, you have to find them and then defeat them in a "battle" that involves using gags.

The game play involves solving puzzles, going on quests, and helping the Zubos that you encounter as you wander through the 10 lands of Zubalon. And every few minutes, you will be challenged to a battle by a roaming Zombo. To battle, you choose 3 Zubos to represent you in a turned-based battle. Zubos and Zombos both fall into three categories: 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. When battling, participants have funny moves that they use to chase away or knock down their opponent including playing a guitar so loud that they deafen their opponent or tickling him with a feather so that he laughs so hard he falls down. Also unique to this combat system is the introduction of rhythm games during the combat. As your Zubo goes through his funny animated motions, 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 the tap the screen when the two lines meet to increase your battle score.

Is it any good?

This is a fabulous game because it has charming characters (each Zubo has his or her own personality); a cute story line; and a unique battle system that combines logic, humor, and rhythm gaming. The concept of using gags instead of gore is brilliant; especially for families looking to minimize violence in their children's gaming. Kids will look forward to the "battles" because the over 100 gag animations are hilarious to watch.

If two friends own the game, they can "battle" each other using the Zubos that they have befriended. Think of this game as a sort of Pokemon meets Elite Beat Agents meets Toontown. What makes Zubo so good it that it takes familiar game mechanics found in role-playing, battle, and rhythm games, mixes them all up and combines them in a new way to create something exceptional.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether collecting Zubos is as fun as collecting the popular Pokemon? Did you like that you didn't have to capture the Zubo, but rather gain their trust? Which of the gag battle moves was your favorite? If you could design a gag battle move, what would it be?

Game details

  • Platforms: Nintendo DS
  • Price: $29.99
  • Available online? Not available online
  • Developer: Electronic Arts
  • Release date: March 10, 2009
  • Genre: Strategy
  • ESRB rating: E10+ for Crude Humor and Mild Cartoon Violence
  • Last updated: June 19, 2019

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