Spore Creatures for the Nintendo DS is a more focused game than its more grandiose PC counterpart. Instead of presenting you with a handful of different game types culminating in an epic interstellar campaign of war and exploration, this charming handheld adventure focuses on what is arguably the most endearing of the Spore experiences: the creature stage. The millions (and millions) of critters that have been imagined up by gamers around the world using Spore and the Creature Creator are a testament to the appeal of player-created content. If you were hoping for more from the Creature stage in Spore, then Spore Creatures‘ more directed approach may just be what you’re looking for.
While the biggest naysayers of the PC version of Spore are usually up in arms about EA’s choice in DRM, hardcore gamers have instead been off-put by the simplicity of many of Spore‘s individual stages. The creation toolsets are plenty of fun to work with, but the core gameplay experiences that make up the different stages of evolution in Spore are not as fleshed-out as the full-fledged games that inspired them. Spore Creatures is essentially the creature stage from Spore, only more fleshed-out and redesigned with the Nintendo DS’s capabilities in mind. Spore Creatures will appeal most to those who considered the creature stage a favorite, or to those who want a taste of the Spore experience while on the go.
Visually, Spore Creatures takes a two-dimensional approach to Spore‘s conflicted worldview, where evolution goes up against intelligent design. Even moreso than the incredibly cute PC game, Spore Creatures will appeal to younger players thanks to its immensely approachable aesthetics. Everything in Spore Creatures has the appearance of being put together by children with construction paper, colored pencils, and a pair of safety scissors. When designing creatures in the creature creator, you’ll lay down flattened cut-outs that represent different body parts, which when applied will come to life. The two-dimensional effect is quite eye-catching when in motion, borrowing from the look of Paper Mario.
You’ll find body parts throughout your creature’s adventure, from the moment it steps out from the primordial soup and onto dry land. Body parts can be found hidden under boulders, or earned as a prize for befriending (or killing) other creatures. Some creatures you encounter will offer up quests, like checkpoint races or other tests of skill. You’ll continually evolve your creature, upgrading body parts as you go to make use of special abilities like fire-breathing, water-walking, and healing.
The problem with a game like Spore Creatures on a conceptual level is that you never really grow an attachment to your critters because you’re constantly sticking new bits and bobs onto them. It’s hard to emotionally bond with something that looks completely different every fifteen minutes. As you get more effective body parts you’ll feel compelled to swap them in, even if you really liked the design you last came up with. The painting tools and resizing options allow for plenty of ways to add a personal touch to your designs, so at least on a conceptual level you can maintain some level of uniformity.
The gameplay in Spore Creatures is simplistic, and easily approachable by players of any age. Your interactions are essentially reduced to sliding the stylus on the screen to move and fight, or tapping to interact with objects and the menus. The game won’t challenge die-hard gamers at all, outside of the difficulty you’ll encounter in dealing with the interface. It’s fairly difficult to perform finer movements with the stylus, and the game makes it a challenge to pick items up off the ground and to individually select body parts in the creator. This frustration is compounded by the camera, which makes maneuvering across the many planets in Spore Creatures quite a chore.
The basic gameplay elements from Spore‘s creature stage have been expanded upon in Spore Creatures, and if you’re looking for more of that, you’ll be quite pleased by this attractive little adventure. You can even hop online over Wi-Fi to trade and download creatures from other players for added variety. While it’s not without its faults, this relatively short adventure is still worth checking out.