Spore has expanded quite a lot since the original title was released in 2008. Since then, there have been a few games for the iPhone and Nintendo DS. Now it's time for the Nintendo Wii to get a piece of the action with Spore Hero, a game that looks to add an adventure element into the mix, while also offering up some melee combat. Is Spore Hero a game that continues Spore's evolution?
Players take control of a Sporeite that crash lands on an unfamiliar planet and at the start of the game, the Sporeite is so devolved that it doesn't even have a mouth. This quickly changes though, and it becomes apparent that the player's character isn't the only thing that appeared on the planet. Hostile creatures have also landed, and they're causing mischief all over. It's up to the player to resolve all of the conflicts, and set things right on the planet. It's not exactly the most inspiring story, and generally, there isn't actually a huge amount of indication about what needs to be done to progress. It's generally up to player to do random quests and hope they actually count towards some kind of progression, although quite a few just reward the player with new body parts.
There are quite a few body parts to collect, and it's possible to alter the appearance of the Sporeite at almost any given moment, but it's actually quite restricting. Players must choose from set default body types, so there is no option to change its shape manually. From here, they can put on arms, legs, eyes, and other parts which will add abilities. However, it all seems quite redundant because many of the extra items add stat points, which can seriously affect performance in the rest of the game. It compromises the creative aspect of the game by giving players a choice; do they want a creature that looks how they want, or do they want one that can actually perform in the game. It's a bit of a shame really. It can also be quite tricky to use the Wii Remote to place items accurately, especially if they are quite small.
The majority of these abilities will be used in probably the most prominent element of the game, combat. After attaching certain body types, players can bite, use claws, kick and perform some special moves. However, it's all quite boring. The controls feel really unresponsive and can often lead to frustration, especially the evading, which rarely seems to actually do as intended. Generally though, most of the combat revolves around countering. This can either be done by performing a well timed block, which will stun the opponent, or by evading a charge move. The poor controls make it relatively difficult for the combat to be based around skill, because without having certain moves, some fights are almost impossible.
The rest of the gameplay revolves around platforming, and the subsequent mini-games. Quests generally revolve around destroying red crystals, the aforementioned fighting, singing, dancing, and using the creature creator. Most of them are actually quite bland and boring, with the singing and dancing being controlled by an uninspired use of motion controls. Having to use the Creature Creator to revert other creatures to their original appearance can also be frustrating, as the clues given generally aren't that helpful.
Spore Hero doss have a nice art style, and creating weird abominations in the Creature Creature is rather fun. However, there do seem to be some odd elements. Characters that appear a certain distance away from the screen have really jerky animations, which wouldn't be so bad in normal gameplay, but they can often be seen gliding around in cutscenes until they come close enough. The sound, while often cute, can become a bit monotonous as well.
There is quite a bit of replayability to be had for those that thrive on creativity. The Sporepedia allows players to create their own Sporeites using any of the parts they've unlocked in the single player game. There is also a battle mode, where players can use preset creatures, or use the ones they've created themselves. This can be played either against the AI, or against a friend locally. While the other mini-games may not be the most inspired, it would have been nice to be able to play them against a friend too.
Spore Hero is noble in its attempts to bring Spore to a wider audience, but it just feels too shallow. The Creature Creator has been quite compromised, and players will often have to sacrifice their own creativity to allow their creature to perform. It's also lacking in direction, and considering this is a game aimed at a younger demographic, it's quite surprising. One of the key elements, the combat, just feels extremely under-developed and overall this sums Spore Hero up. If the game had more polish, a better structure and a more thorough Creature Creator, it could really have been a solid, enjoyable title.