Spore™ Creatures

from Electronic Arts, originally released 25th January, 2010

CREATE. EXPLORE. EVOLVE. IT’S AN ALL-NEW ADVENTURE. The SPORE™ Creatures are out of the ooze and onto solid ground in the sequel to the award-winning SPORE™ Origins — created just for iPhone® & iPod touch®.

BE A SPORE CREATURE...


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Spore Creatures Review

The computer game Spore was designed to appeal to the casual crowd just like The Sims did. While it may not have attained the ubiquity of that series, it was met with critical praise and popular success. It also spawned a series of smaller games. Spore Creatures is the second entry in the franchise to hit the App Store, after Spore Origins, and the goal is much the same: eat stuff to evolve. But this time, you do it on land.

Each of the game’s four hub worlds is made up of portals to numerous levels, and each level is unlocked by completing the one before it. The route to the next hub world is blocked by things in the environment that you won’t be able to pass until you get the evolutionary ability possessed by the boss of the world, conveniently enough.

To befriend or not to befriend: that is the question.

As you make your way through the levels, avoiding environmental dangers and chowing down all the critters you can get in your mouth, your DNA bar fills up, allowing you to upgrade your character. You’ll add new wings, claws, ears, arms, mouths– whatever you want. To make these additions, you enter the creature creator screen and drag the new body parts onto your critter. The creature creator is pretty versatile and works fairly well, until your bug gets too many limbs and things get crowded. Once that happens, you’ll throw out any desire for your little one to look cool, and start placing eyeballs anywhere they’ll fit.

Movement in the game is controlled by tilting the device. While this may have seemed like a novel way to get around when Origins first came out, it seems that an onscreen D-pad (or at least an option for one) would have allowed for tighter control. But you’re stuck with tilt, and it’s nearly impossible to get your creature to stand still or to navigate through thin, dangerous passages without accidentally touching poison-puffing plants or Venus flytraps. And there’s no way to adjust the sensitivity, so you’re stuck with the default.

Note: your creature probably won’t look anywhere near this good.

The levels have cute names, like Lumpet Cove and Beetle Basin, and the graphics and animation are both excellent. The problem is that there’s not much to do beyond eating and evolving. Sure, each level tracks how many of the available bugs you’ve consumed, and you’ll come upon herds of animals that you can decide to fight or befriend, but once you’ve cleared a few stages you’ll have seen most of what this game has to offer.

If nothing else, Spore Creatures provides an easy, user-friendly introduction to RPG elements. Playing this game will familiarize young gamers with navigating menus and choosing upgrade paths. However, anyone who has played through a Final Fantasy or Fallout won’t find anything very new or compelling here.

Spore Origins stood out because it had the high production values that were often lacking in iDevice games when it was released. Now that top-tier games like Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars are out, slick production doesn’t cut it if it’s not mixed with equally stellar gameplay. So although it might be worth the premium price to casual gamers looking for something pretty and light, App Store enthusiasts will probably want to hold off until the price comes down.

Previews:

Spore Creatures Hands-On Preview and Video

When we last left our paramecium protagonists, they were just struggling out of the ocean and starting to breathe air as their little finned limbs brought them ashore. That was the end of Spore Origins, and the evolutionary series takes another step forward on the iPhone with the upcoming release of Spore Creatures.

In this sequel, you take your critters to land in order to grow. You’ll still tilt to control your Spore, and be able to customize antennae or claws all over your polka-dotted backside, if that’s what you want. What’s new is a deeper, more interesting visual style with parallax scrolling trees and puddles of water (creating an illusion of depth), and a variety of puzzles that go quite a bit further than the last game.

Last time around, it was pretty much all about eating your way through the world while avoiding bigger predators. This time, you’ll have to drag rocks to cross chasms, defeat bosses by feeding them poison mushrooms, and ride hot air vents to gain some verticality.

Spore Creatures also introduces a new gameplay mechanic: the social ability. In addition to your earlier skills like offense and defense, you can now also “chat” with friendly herd animals, gaining simple quests like bringing them gems so they’ll like you. Or, alternately, with the tap of a button, you can turn vicious and slaughter them instead.

Each of the game’s four zones will contain an epic creature at the end of five stages. Defeating this creature will give you extra evolutionary abilities. You’ll also learn how to open up new pathways by “charming” vines and setting fires, in addition to unlocking new limbs and other physical features.

With at least four hours of gameplay, along with multiple save slots so that you can try out different combinations of creature parts, Spore Creatures seems to us like a well-intentioned follow-up. If you enjoyed the first Spore game for iPhone, this one doesn’t seem to be straying too far from what people liked, but adds a lot more puzzle-solving and graphical polish. Look for Spore Creatures in the App Store soon.