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Oct 17, 2008

Review: Spore

EA, Maxis
Available for PC

After years of success with games like The Sims and SimCity, Will Wright has finally managed to pack all those sim game concepts into one and create a game so fantastic on the galactic level that it will have you feeling every bit like a God. Originally titled Sim Everything, Spore was designed to include aspects from all of previous Sim games and but for the first time include a sort of plot and goal like structure unlike its previous Sim brethren.

Based on intelligent design, Spore has you modifying a creature’s life from cell stage to space stage, all in hopes that it will survive the world around it. You control everything about your creature from its food choices to how it moves to what it sounds like and all this just based on what type of hand you give your creature or what type of mouth. The combinations of parts you can give your creatures are endless too, so every evolution can bring about a whole new creature type.

In the cell stage, you start off as a tiny single cell creature which emerges from a fallen comet into a pool of ooze. From here, you must direct your creature to feed on plant cells or bacteria depending on what you chose it would eat in the beginning. The DNA you collect from the food will advance you towards the next stage, cause you to grow bigger and give you points to add on new parts to your creature.

As you swim around the pool eating, you will have to avoid or attack other creatures which are trying to survive and eat just like you. Depending on the size of the other creatures around you, you’ll be able to eat or attack them, or maybe they’ll just be able to eat you.

As you eat your way to bigger and better things, you will soon develop the ability to call for a mate who once met, will help you produce an egg and open up the creature mod screen. Here you can use your DNA points to add on parts to enhance your creature and help him survive. Remember to choose wisely though as each part can decide which your species thrives or ends up extinct.

Once you finish modifying your creature with some new parts, colouring and maybe even use the editor to test him out and take a few pictures, you can release the new creature 2.0 into the pool again to continue eating, attacking and growing. As you grow the background becomes the foreground, creatures around you reduce in size and new creatures emerge to hunt you. The eating, modifying, and growing will continue until you finally collect enough DNA to develop a brain which suddenly tells you to take a walk on the surface.

This starts the creature stage which gives you the opportunity to add legs to your creature before its heads off into its brand new world. In this stage, your creature will develop social and aggression skills which allow it to interact or kill other species. To impress and ally other species, you must learn how to dance and sing which come from new parts on your creature. Once you learn these skills, your creatures must engage in a “Monkey See, Monkey Do” mini game with the other species to make them happy and have them ally with you and even join your pack.

You can also learn new attack skills like bite and strike which help you attack and wipe other species out of existence. Whether you choose to use your social or aggression skills, both will earn you DNA points towards new parts, a bigger brain and the next stage, Tribal.

The creature stage is also a key stage because you get to interact more with other people’s creatures which you can receive via an online connection. Each creature, vehicle or building you come across during your game experience is added into the Sporepedia, so you can keep track of it and even use it later for your own game. You can even bring your creations from the Spore Creature Creator and creations from your friend’s planets too.

The Tribal stage changes the format of the game to more of a real time strategy game. Your creatures have now settled into a camp and here you must order your people collect food in order to survive and grow. You can also create costumes for your creatures, but no longer change their body. Buildings and babies are created from food supplies and now your tribe must compete with other tribes to ascend to the next stage, Civilization.

Your tribes must choose to attack or make peace with the other tribes that pop up. Peace can be made by developing instruments and ordering members to complete a mini game of musical “Simon Says”. War is made by developing weapons and ordering members to kill other tribes. With each triumphant over a tribe, your tribe will receive another costume piece, building and room to expand their amount of tribe members.

Once you erase all the tribes or make peace with them, you can advance onto the civilization stage, where you now must conquer the entire world. Your key to advancing here is by capturing cities through force, religious conversion or buying them. Starting with only a single city and a single land unit, your creatures must now capture and harvest spice (nice Dune reference) from the land to support purchases and upgrades. Here you get to create and purchase different buildings and vehicles, all in order to keep your people happy, take out other cities, generate revenue, and finally ascend through complete world domination to the next stage, Space.

The Space stage is probably the most complex stage of all, as you now have a giant galaxy filled with planets to explore. Here you can fly through space and visit other planets which can be barren or hold other life forms in various stages. Your creatures can build colonies on new planets, kidnap creatures from other planets and bring them to yours, get into intergalactic space fights with other advanced species, change other planets to support life, and tons of other cool options. Here you can do it all or start the game all over again with a new planet and a new life form.

With difficulty settings and such easy to use controls, Spore is perfect for anybody to pick up and play. The level of skills needed to get through the easy setting isn’t much, but you will need your wits about you to make it through the game on the normal setting. That is where my little carnivore, Gibbly kept dying at the hands of the other planet’s species and one giant moose monster.

The menus and environments are very easy to navigate and the game gives you a tutorial at the beginning of each stage to ease you into your new surroundings. The user content in Spore makes it very easy to take pictures of your creature to send to friends or take video of your creature dancing and upload it to You Tube.

The graphics in this game were fantastic, minus a disappearing tree or two. Armed with only the mod screen and your imagination, creatures can be moulded into anything you want and its parts coloured exactly how you want. Sure it takes a bit of time and know-how to get your creature’s skin or fur to look exactly the way it should, but with time, it’s any design is impossible.

My first planet was like something out of a Dr. Seuss book with its multi-coloured fruit, purple oceans and trees with tentacles and eyeballs, but each world is created different to provide a different atmosphere. On each new world, you’ll find yourself taking a moment to look around at your surrounding once you ascend into the creature stage.

The audio will immerse you in your world like you were living in the jungle or the future city yourself. Each creature is given a mating call, song, and dance beat to match each of its modifications and those sounds will evolve over time to fit each stage. My second creature, when it developed speech, sounded like a cross between Jabba the Hut and Greedo from Star Wars. The other creatures each have distinct sounds as well, so when you get your allied creatures get together to impress other species, it’s so cute to watch them sing and dance together.

I could spend hours taking about how incredibly imaginative and innovative this game is, but really you have to experience it for yourself to truly see how cool is game is. Will Wright has really out done himself this time and if he never makes another game ever, I would be happy with this as his final game. With so much game for your dollar and easy to meet system requirements to run the game, there is no reason not to pick this game up today.

Rating: 10 of out 10
Buy it!

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