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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Game Play: Spore Origins

Spore Origins is a heavily modified version of the first stage of Spore redesigned for the iPhone. One's expectation might be that it is essentially the same gameplay, but that's not entirely the case.

Spore Origins has actually far less emphasis on evolution than one might think. Customization is certainly present, and options like the ability to use your own images as textures are much appreciated, the watered down creature creator doesn't come close to the kind of flexibility as the full version. Plus, "evolution points" which can be spent on items come infrequently throughout the 30 level game and there's no ability to sell back parts to try out new ones.

Most of the gameplay involves tilting the phone to either catch or avoid other creatures. The accelerometer makes for tricky input in general, but I will give EA bonus points for adding the ability to reset the baseline angle so that you at least have the chance of being able to use it when you can't comfortably stare directly down onto your phone. Still, when gameplay requires you be careful of where you're running, going up or down gives the user scant little room to see incoming objects. I've died more than a couple times by what felt like completely accidental collisions.

The gameplay can get repetitive over time and so EA tries to mix it up occasionally. Some levels are bridge levels where you navigate through a maze. There's an attempt at a boss mechanic, but the results are pretty uneven.

What really sells the game for me is the excellent production values. The game looks great, sounds great and runs very smooth. There's a lot of attention to detail that has been hard to find in some iPhone applications to date. In the end it feels more like a decent distraction rather than a good game - a hard sell at $9.99 perhaps. This would be one game which could benefit heavily from a decent demo version so that people could try a level out and see for themselves.

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