There’s been a lot of hype about Spore, the big new game from Will Wright and his hardworking crew at Electronic Arts. Wright is the creator of The Sims, and Spore took six years to make. It’s supposed to be the biggest thing he’ll ever do. But does Spore live up to the hype?
Electronic Arts for Mac and PC
Replay Value: 9.5
Overall Score: 8.5
Pros: Completely immersive gameplay experience; Creature Creator rocks; share creatures and worlds online.
Cons: Takes time to install; some camera angle issues; graphics could be better.
FITS AND STARTS
Spore is a fascinating game in which you start out as a simple cell in the ocean. From there, you help grow your cell from a strange, alien land dweller to a civilized being to one with a spaceship who explores the galaxy.
The game takes about a half-hour or more to install. Then, when you first boot it up, it takes a while to load. It took so long, I clicked the swirly Spore icon a second time, and the game wouldn’t run. There should have been a popup screen that says “loading” or something.
UP AND RUNNING
But once it does run, it’s just beautiful and fun to be a young cell under the sea. You can choose to be an herbivore or carnivore cell. I chose to be an herbivore, a plant eater. Then, to the sound of trippy music by Brian Eno (who produced the latest Coldplay CD), I was swimming playfully in the sea. I used the keyboard’s arrow buttons to move around and explore. There are so many things growing here — weird-looking creatures that other people have made — I almost didn’t want to leave this wonderful sea.
It might be better to be a meat eater because I kept getting eaten by other cells early on. Just a veggie eater consuming bright green algae, I couldn’t bite them back. So my little purple cell yelped and eventually died. But the game started over again. After I explored the sea to unlock special body parts, I found a girlfriend, who showed me she liked me when hearts floated all around her.
Later, I was able to add a poison-puffing part to the cell’s body. When other cells would try to eat me, I had some means of defense. I survived!
MAKING A MOVE
It was time to make my move to land. The beach seemed vast, full of wonders and dangers. And the island to which it belonged was full of strange and awesome creatures. Some were small like me. Others were bigger but shy. Some were downright nasty and didn’t want to be pals. And one was two-legged and huge. It picked me up like Goliath picking up David, took a bite out of me and threw me down, nearly killing me. I quickly ate a lot of fruit to restore my health.
My goals were many: eating constantly to stay alive; finding hidden bones (usually near other beings) so I could alter my body with things like wings; and making pals with other creatures. I made friends first by calling them over and singing them a song. After talking to three of them, I received the reward of some DNA, which helped me transform and grow stronger.
While the graphics aren’t the most detailed in the world, they’re generally delightful, so much so that I had my creature traverse the whole island to see everything. You can adjust the graphics for more detail, but it might slow down your computer.
I did notice a few issues on the island. When I got too close to a hilly or mountainous area, the camera angle didn’t work very well. Briefly, I didn’t know where I was. Then, when feeding on orange fruit, sometimes the tree would just disappear. Often, I didn’t have to walk around plants; I was able to walk through them. That shouldn’t happen.
LEADING AND SHARING
In the next stage, you move on to create a tribe. I liked this the least, as the oohs and ahhs I found with my little island creature weren’t there. I was more of a leader controlling a group of beings as in any real-time strategy game. Plus, the camera issue grew to be a problem in this stage.
Eventually, you’ll travel through the universe exploring planets in a spaceship of your own making. You have a ton of choices throughout: make your own things, use Spore to create them or use the things that the vast Spore online community has made. The surprises that await you when you see a UFO or when you move through space are just astonishing. To know that so many other people in the Spore community are doing the same makes you feel a kinship.
When you’re done, you can upload your own creature or planet for people to play in. You can take pictures and record video of your progress, too.
FLAWED BUT FULL OF AWE
You can probably breeze through Spore in about 10 hours, maybe less. But the true enjoyment comes from exploring the worlds. Don’t rush Spore. Savor it. While Spore is sometimes flawed, one thing is clear: This is one of those discs that changes video games for all time.
Spore is nothing if not addicting. I started playing one morning and before I knew it, more than four hours had passed in what seemed to be the blink of an eye. Play Spore in your spare time, after homework and chores, or you won’t get anything done.
Finally, the Spore manual says you’re allowed to have a few accounts when you buy one CD. Sadly, you can only have one account per household because EA is trying to cut down on piracy issues. But you can have multiple creatures so you and your whole family can make vehicles and planets, too. You just can’t play all together at once.