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.