For anyone who hasn’t seen Robin Williams doing a demo of Maxis’ PC game, Spore, click here. At an E3 party down in LA a year before the release date, Williams did an excellent job showcasing the game’s simple interface and endless array of creature possibilities. For me, it’s also one of the highlights of the game itself, which lost all entertainment value after the first two days of play.
The concept of Spore is fascinating. You start by designing your own single-celled organism, giving it very limited defensive and offensive appendages. Then it gets chucked into a pool of primordial ooze and you see how it fares against all the other single-celled organisms. The controls are a little sluggish. You’ll click your mouse on the far side of the screen, and your creature will slowly turn to face it, and even more slowly wiggle in the direction of your pointer. This may have been because my creatures never had speed boosters, but even the ones that did reacted more like a pebble out of a slingshot than a semi-sentient organism.
After a few rounds of evolution in the swamp in which you redesign your organism to better survive the bigger and meaner predators, your organism makes the triumphant crossing onto dry land. You give your creature legs and arms, and you’re off. And this is where Spore lost most of its luster. The Creature Stage is pretty much exactly like the Cell Stage before it: survive (or don’t), evolve, repeat. Sure, in the Creature Stage you have a mate waiting at the nest looking after a gaggle of mini creatures, and you run around picking up disembodied limbs of other creatures to add to your inventory of body parts, but nothing really changes between any of the five stages. You gradually learn to make allies or enemies, form a tribe, build entertainment plazas and houses, and eventually develop the technology for space travel. Nothing really changes other than the scenery, and even that feels pretty cut-and-paste.
There are other features to Spore that make it worthy of another day’s play. If you have some friends with Spore, you can download their creatures into your game and either ally with or fight against them. Not your friend; just his creature. Spore is a single-player game. There is absolutely no interaction between other players, other than nuking their primitive little village and pretending you’re so much smarter than them when in fact they’re being run by a dimwitted and usually-passive AI. All I kept thinking, as I nuked my friends’ primitive little villages, was why Maxis would make my friends’ creatures available but not allow actual two-player gaming. EA, Spore’s publisher, set up a YouTube station directly linked to Spore that allows players to showcase creatures; a tracker to let you see how your creature is doing in other players’ games; even a “Sporum” community site where players can chat, roleplay, and ask questions of Spore developers. All of this is designed to enrich player experience in Spore, and yet they cannot directly stamp out their friends’ creatures in the game.
Every gamer should try Spore. It really is a lot of fun, for the first few hours. The way the game knows exactly how your eighth limb is supposed to move in conjunction with your tail is pretty impressive. But the gameplay itself falls off the radar almost as soon as you leave Tribal Stage. For the builders out there who could play with LEGO for days and not get bored, then Spore will probably be worth the $60. For everyone else, borrow it from a friend then delete it from your hard drive. That space can be put to far better use with other games.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com