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Spore

Destructoid review: Spore Creatures

Sep 09 // Conrad Zimmerman
Spore Creatures, unable to come close to the scale of its parent game with the limitations of the DS, is instead an action/RPG. Players are cast into the role of a freshly spawned creature which has just emerged from the water to dry land. When the sole other survivor of the evolutionary process is captured by a highly-advanced creature with goals of galactic conquest, the player must embark on a quest to rescue it.The story does what it needs to in setting an objective, but there is no depth whatsoever. The assorted species you encounter lack distinguishing characteristics beyond appearance and some combat abilities, even amongst the races you have to assist along the way. I was hoping that there would be some sort of lesson at the conclusion about growth and change and the effects that could have on a relationship, but that might have been asking for a bit too much.At the core of the game lies its creature creation system. By moving into a nest, you gain access your creature's design. Creatures are built by combining parts found in the game world in a paper doll interface. You are limited by how much experience you've earned, represented by a "Body" stat. Every part requires a minimum amount of Body to use but that's the only real restriction. If you want to use the same torso throughout the entire game, you theoretically could.Creatures have basic stats for attack, defense and attractiveness. Secondary statistics exist for metabolism (which dictates how much health you regain from eating food), visual acuity, energy recharge and critical hit chance. The assorted parts you affix to your creature increase these, with different body parts being associated with specific stats. Legs add defense, arms provide attack and so on.It sounds neat, but I quickly found it unsatisfying. While at first I played around with my appearance, affixing parts that had no value other than the cosmetic, the creature eventually becomes so cluttered with arms, mouths, legs, tails and eyes that it seemed pointless to have them. As time went on, I just started throwing bits in wherever they'd fit because I just didn't care anymore. The actual gameplay features your creature, rendered in the same 2D appearance as in the creature builder, roaming around levels, collecting parts and achieving goals. The objectives have a decent amount of variety to them, as you'll help certain species fend off attacks from others, assist them in gathering food or rescue lost children. The top screen provides a map with very useful icons for the locations of creatures and items while the bottom handles all the action. Nearly everything is accomplished using the stylus. Holding the stylus anywhere on the touchscreen will make your creature move in that direction. Items in the environment that you can interact with will become highlighted when you are close enough and tapping them will bring up a menu of options. Some items can be picked up and carried on your back and then thrown by dragging the stylus towards where you want them to land. In order to achieve many of the goals in the game, you'll have to befriend other creatures. Upon approaching them, you can put out a social call and they'll respond by asking you to either cuddle or dance with them. Cuddling requires that you drag a smiling face over their body a few times for a slight increase on their friendliness meter. Dancing launches you into a minigame where you tap flowers near the edge of the screen when flashing circles reach their centers. Performing well will give a significant boost to their meter while failure will result in a decrease and affects the meters of all creatures in range.The dancing minigame isn't bad. Over time, it becomes pretty challenging, and songs get faster with more targets the further you progress in the game. It is limited to only a few songs though and, while none of them are bad tunes, repetition wears the activity thin. Once you have creatures on your side, they'll frequently give you a new body part or a quest-related item and will be willing to accompany you into combat. If you manage to get all the members of a species to be your friend, you gain access to their nest, often earning another item as well as having a new place to swap out your limbs.Not everyone is going to want to be your buddy (not at first; eventually every race is a candidate for friendship) and there are plenty of opportunities for combat. Attacking an enemy is done by dragging the stylus across them. It feels absolutely horrible, as many passes over the enemy don't apear to register, so you just keep slashing in the hopes that you deal some damage once in a while. The special combat powers that some body parts offer seem fairly inefficient also, so the best recourse is just to keep hacking away and pray you win.You can retreat by moving to the edges of the battle area and hitting an icon, but this too seems pointless, since there's really no penalty for death. When you lose a battle, you re-emerge at the nearest friendly nest. No progress is lost, except for any damage you inflicted in the failed combat, and you can just run right back and try it again. The story mode takes about 6 hours to complete and the last couple really seem to drag on despite having some of the more interesting quests. Once you're finished, the game opens up a "Replay" mode that allows you to return to the individual levels and attempt goals you might have failed or find additional items in the world you missed. Also extending the potential replay value are Badges, awarded for meeting a whole host of different conditions through play. There are many Badges to earn and completing them give you points to spend on cheats and special body parts unavailable in the main game. At the end of the day, Spore Creatures would probably have been better served as Spore Jr. It's very simplistic, despite the appearance of having a complex system of creature building. Apart from my issues with the combat, at no point is the game really bad, but it's never a whole lot of fun either. It is charming for about an hour's worth of play but not much else. Score: 4 (Poor. An admirable effort with a sliver of promise, but essentially mediocre.)
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Pew! Pew! Preview!: Spore Creature Creator

Jun 11 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Shortly after arrival to the Maxis studios in Emeryville, the esteemed gaming press was ushered into the makeshift presentation room (A.K.A. the kitchen and dining area). Before we could get our hands on the PCs in the next room, we were walked through the basics of the Spore Creature Creator.The video gives a great overview of how you start the creature creating process. But it's my job to write, so read my words. To begin, you're given a very basic torso to manipulate. You can extend or shorten the spine, make your torso bigger or smaller, whatever you want. If you don't like the torso you're given, you can simply click the torso button to load up a differently shaped torso.Once you're satisfied, it's time to give your creature a face and body parts. You have a menu divided up into different sections filled with parts. There's a separate menu for eyes, mouths, noses, arms, legs, hands, feet, spikes, weapons, feathers and much more. You can place all these wherever you would like on your creature and increase the size of each body part to whatever you desire by simple clicks of the button. As you play through the main game, you'll have to explore and socialize to find more parts that you can use on your creature.All body parts have different stats associated with them. If you plan on playing passively in Spore, it would be best to pick the feet that gives your creature better dancing skills. If you want to play aggressively in the game, it'd be best for you to pick the feet that gives your creature the skills to charge and run fast.The best way to describe this entire process is by this picture, I believe: You see that? That's a fucking pear. YOU CAN MAKE A PEAR CREATURE!Basically, what I'm trying to get at here is that your imagination is your only limitation. If you can dream it up, you can in all likelihood make it.  The next process in your creature designs is color design. You have three different layers to customize in the color design section. There's the main color of the body, the secondary color and the patterns portion. If you make something that looks like a gorilla but you want it to have the designs of a bee, all you have to do is pick yellow for his main color, maybe white for his belly area and give your creature some stripes. You have the entire color wheel at your disposal with tons of different patterns to pick from. After you're satisfied with what you've created, it's time to take your creature out for a test drive. In Test Drive mode, your creature is dropped off into a small little enclosure where you can mess around with your creature. You can make him move around to see how your creature will walk and do some basic actions. There’s a menu with the various action commands that contains things like making your character jump, dance, sing, sit and so on. There are also emotion buttons you can use to get your creature to show emotions like fear, happiness, anger and more.Another option in test drive mode is to give your creature some babies. You can have a max of three babies at a time and the babies will imitate everything that you do on the screen. It's really adorable watching your creature get really sad once he sees he has to be responsible for babies now. You can change the background up from the default field location to an extraterrestrial look to a volcanic dark world. There’s also a plain black background, which is perfect for filming videos that you want to edit into a movie. Speaking of videos, Spore has teamed up with YouTube to let players upload videos of their creature to their YouTube account directly through the game. You’ll also be able to take pictures of your creature that you can e-mail to friends in the test drive mode. Spore has also joined with a comic book creation company, so players will be able to make little comics with their creatures, too.Once you're satisfied with what you've made, it's time to name your creature. You can name it whatever you want or let the game randomly choose a name. Then, you give it a description and tag your creature. Tags will play an important part in the game. When we were watching the demonstration, an all-pink creature was made and it was tagged "pink". If someone wanted to populate a planet with nothing but just pink creatures, they would search for the pink tag and have the game import everything tagged with pink.   The Spore Web site is going to play a big part in the Spore world. All the creatures you have made will be in your own little section of the Spore site, where people can comment on and rate your creation. People will also be able to simply drag the thumbnail of your creature from your site onto their own harddrive and then load up your creature design into their Creature Creator. Each picture is like a very tiny compressed recipe that tells the game exactly what the creature is supposed to look like. You'll also have widgets and an RSS feed for your Spore site. Everything you do in the game will be recorded on Sporepedia. It will store the characters you have created, the comments you've moderated and show you who has visited your profile -- basically everything is recorded here. Sporepedia is seamless between the game and Web site. It was really amazing watching what everyone was making in the Maxis studio. Each person had something completely different from the person next to them and it made me realize that the possibilities are just endless. Some people were trying to make real-world animals, while others were making creatures that would realistically kill the mother in the birth process. The picture introducing this preview as well as the retarded red-looking creature above were both made by me. The first creature I made is called Mr. Meow Meow. I'm planning on making more creatures that I'll share with all of you this weekend. Keep an eye on my Community Blog, as I'll be taking requests on what to make sometime tomorrow. This is only one tiny little part of a huge game; I can see myself just losing my life to making an endless amount of creatures. The Spore Creature Creator will be released June 17th worldwide in over 22 languages on both the Mac and PC for $9.95; a free trial version will also be available. For more information, head on over to the trial page on the game's website.
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I feel I must preface this Pew! Pew! Preview! by stating that up until last night, I had no desire for Spore whatsoever. I understood the potential of the game and knew it was going to be a big deal, but I just didn't see Spo...

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