Developers Maxis have been letting us all play god for some while now. We’ve run huge metropolises with Sim City, had fun with a virtual doll’s house with The Sims, and now Will Wright’s gone all Darwin on us with Spore. It’s marketed as a personal universe in a box. Sounds like a deep and meaningful game but actually what you get is five mini games which vary in complexity as you play through the stages.
You begin as a single cell and have to play the equivalent of a flash game you may find on the internet. Simply eat things smaller than you and avoid becoming dinner for bigger things yourself. Whether you eat plants or animals depends on what you evolve into in the next stage, where you grow legs, take to land and then do the same on a bigger scale.
Now the world’s in full 3D and you either have to attack other species to make them extinct or make friends with them. It’s simple exploration and icon clicking as you choose attacks and mimic creatures to make friends with them. Earn DNA points and you can mate at your nest, using the superb creature creator to add features that make you faster, meaner and give you more skills.
The creature editor is where this game is really at. It’s so intuitive you’ll be making multi-limbed beasts in no time and uploading them to the Sporepedia for the world to see.
Once your brain’s big enough you make it to the tribal stage. No longer do you control an individual creature, but a tribe in a mini strategy game. Here you must once again befriend or attack neighbouring tribes to evolve and grow.
You then enter the civilization stage where the action zooms out further and you create vehicles to get your creatures about. This game’s a bit like an RTS where you can beat your enemies using religious, military or economic factors. Once again it’s pretty light stuff but once you get through this you finally get into space.
This bit’s really the main event. You now control a single ship as you zoom around galaxies, terraforming planets to support life and plonking new creatures into the mix. You can even swoop down to the planets and have a good nose around – it’s nice because when you’re in stage two you see ships doing the same as you wander about eating things.
Take any of Spore’s parts individually and to be honest they’re a bit of a disappointment. Luckily, the game’s more than the sum of its parts and does have genuine charm with its creature creator, and the wonder and humour you’ll experience as you play through it. Girls love it too so if you’re a bloke and you’re trying to get your girly into gaming, get her to give this a go. Spore Galactic Edition includes stacks of bonus material and there is also Spore Creatures for the DS for playing the game on the go. Spore gets a very good 7 out of 10.
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