Spore provides cute, light-hearted fun

Three years is a long time to wait for anything. In the case of the long overdue Spore, it spent nearly eight years in production and planning. I can even recall back in 2005 when Will Wright visited Georgia Tech. Even though Spore wasn’t officially announced until a month or so later at that year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), news got around fast, and thus, the waiting began.

As of Sept. 7, the wait was over.

The theme of Spore is centered around the idea of evolution, where the player basically starts off as a microscopic (and surprisingly cute) microorganism, skipping through billions of years to the point where said creature ascends to the stars and beyond.

Spore is divided into five phases of evolution, beginning at the Cell stage where the player swims around as a miniscule cell to gather food as either an herbivore or a carnivore, gaining new parts as ‘upgrades’ in its evolutionary arms race. Bigger and bigger the adorable bacteria (or whatever you’d like to call it) gets, until it makes the leap from a vast primordial soup to dry land, reaching the Creature phase.

After a lot of eating, fighting and socializing with other species, your pack of creatures press on to the Tribe phase. As in previous phases, your species can go about warring on other tribes or make allies out of them.

As your species begins to dominate the planet, which by then is the Civilization phase, you lead one particular faction of your species in uniting the world under one philosophy. Lastly, and undoubtedly the phase that contains the vast majority of gameplay depth, your civilization launches into the skies with their very own spaceship.

While this might seem overwhelming to many, it has to be said that swimming around as a cute little cell is easier than a game of Pac-Man. The difficulty ramps up ever so slowly throughout the game, and there’s always fun to be had in each phase. Perhaps the greatest amount of detail that a player will put into Spore will be the editing tools provided to design buildings, vehicles, and of course, the species themselves.

Spore Creature Creator was released earlier in the year to give players a head-start, and by Sept. 1 gamers had already created over 3 million different species. Even better, all 3 million plus creations have a possibility of making an appearance in your game, making Spore perhaps the first (and undoubtedly the largest) ‘massively single-player online game’. Spore even comes with community and export tools just in case you want to show off your latest creation’s dance to your friends on YouTube.

Beyond the intricate details and God-like scope of the gameplay, there’s the typical Maxis charm that can be seen everywhere in Spore. While the graphics may not be photorealistic by any means, every creature is animated beautifully (no matter how many limbs or toes it may have) and the environments are wide and varied. The soundtrack is oftentimes nonexistent or very simple in the initial phases and changes aptly according to what’s happening on the screen.

Particularly for folks in Computational Media, debates will no doubt rage on whether Spore is a cosmically-scaled toy rather than a true game, much like The Sims is considered a virtual doll-house by many. Additionally, the first four phases of the game pale in comparison to the space frontier in terms of scope and complexity, passing by almost too quickly to be enjoyable.

Whether you’re someone who rarely plays games beyond Solitaire or Texas Hold’Em on weekends, or a devoted gamer (or one who’s simply torn on whether Spore is worth the long wait), it’s an easy choice.