If you’ve always wanted to create a monster with eyes for hands, seven mouths and one leg, then “Spore” is the game for you.
After years of development, “Sim City” creator Will Wright’s so-called “God Game” has finally arrived on the PC and Mac, and while it comes very close to meeting its galactic potential, attempts to accommodate novice gamers have left some gameplay elements feeling redundant.
“Spore” gives users the power to evolve a galaxy of their own. Players start by controlling a single cell (which somehow has very cute eyes) and evolving it over eons through five stages of sentience. After the cell stage, creatures develop legs and venture onto land, gain intelligence and form tribes, defeat or team-up with other tribes to form civilizations and finally venture off into custom-built spaceships to dominate or unify the galaxy. Throughout evolution, the game is filled with fun challenges and surprisingly difficult strategy decisions.
Gameplay mainly consists of interacting with other creatures to unlock new abilities, parts and stages. In the early stages of the game, these interactions can unlock new body parts. In later stages, players earn access to new technologies, parts for their “tribal outfit” and eventually a vehicle editors for cars, boats, planes and spaceships. In addition to the satisfaction of earning new parts, there’s something indescribably enjoyable about watching your creation devour its enemies.
“Spore” is not a visually stunning game, but the cartoony graphical style is complemented well by humorous cut-scenes and character animations. Sometimes creatures’ legs will pass through their arms when they run, or their tails will magically vanish underground when they sit. But given that the programmers were faced with the immense challenge of animating anything the user could come up with, they deserve to be cut some slack.
Although it might not be the earth-shattering simulator some anticipated, “Spore” ‘s deep customization tools and accessible nature will appeal to a broad spectrum of gamers.
It looks like Will Wright’s resume just got a little stronger.
Some assembly required: “Spore” ’s claim to fame is its editors, which allow players to make everything from cells to spaceships. The editors let players unleash their creativity, assembling a creature out of a set of parts in whatever freaky formation they wish. The same goes for buildings and vehicles, with no convolution too weird for the game to allow. A free trial of the creature creator is available on Spore.com.
Internet Creature Database (ICDb): One of the game’s most groundbreaking features is the seamless sharing of creations between players via the internet. Everything created is uploaded to the Sporepedia section of Spore.com. Creations will then exist on other players’ planets, and gamers can even track what happened to them. For example, one of my recent species was driven extinct by two different players on the same day. R.I.P. Kwillp. While Maxis provided a substantial amount of pre-made content, the most grotesque, absurd and fun playmates are those made by other players.
Luke, I am your previous generation: The force is strong in this game, with the light side represented by herbivores and the dark side by carnivores. Like in any game with a morality theme, there are different abilities and bonuses for each side. If you create a herbivore, expect to be winning creatures over by singing, dancing and posing. Carnivores, on the other hand, spend most of their time biting and spitting poison. As creatures progress, in-game decisions sway their alignment. Players that begin as a herbivorous cell but proceeded to kill everything in sight will be on the path to becoming a carnivore by the tribal stage. The path followed in one stage affects abilities in the next stage, so choose wisely.
The evolutionary grind: The only major problem with “Spore” is that each game stage outlasts its fun. Hunting and singing without major variations is only fun for so long. The same goes for tribal and civilization interactions, where players are always faced with at most two ways to treat their cohabitants. The game tries to vary the experience by increasing the difficulty of the tasks throughout each stage, but this just draws the stages out longer without making them any more exciting. The space stage succeeds more than the others because it allows full exploration, which is more limited until that point. There are still missions to complete in the space stage, but after doing so you get to explore the entire galaxy.
Fun for the whole family: “Spore” is a groundbreaking game that could be fun for everyone from the first-time player to the hardcore gamer. It’s a science lesson, a simulator and a strategy challenge all rolled into one package. With “Spore” available for both PCs and Macs, computers have no excuse for not evolving.