Though Spore Hero may share a name with the hit Will Wright game and have some aspects that resemble Spore’s creature stage, the similarities end there. Spore Hero takes players on an adventure through a handful of levels where they must solve puzzles and gather parts to upgrade and evolve their creature enough to take on the evil Zarkhator, a creature who is using red meteors to mesmerize the other creatures in an attempt to take over the planet. These “meteors” are more akin to a crystal formation that can be shattered (and sometimes reform).
Players start Spore Hero in a place called Mushroom Valley, with a basic creature. Finding a way out of the valley means befriending the other creatures through friendly competitive mini-games and battle. The various competitions include dancing, singing, and racing. Essentially, all a player must do to win is shake or move the controller or nun chuck at the right moment for their creature to perform the correct action. Each competition lasts around a minute or two and by the third time or so doing each mini-game, my arms were tired and my brain was a bit bored. Fighting was a bit more of a challenge.
Battles were probably the most interesting and challenging aspect of Spore Hero. If my creature wasn’t upgraded enough, the fights could prove quite difficult. Creature upgrades can be found lying around all throughout the world or be given to you as a reward for completing mini-games or quests. Battles are fairly regulated in that you can only move within a small circular area and it is difficult to dodge a foe’s attacks due to a fairly forced movement and control structure. I had to redo several battles a few times to figure out the best way to beat some creatures, but in general it seemed like the easiest route to victory was to simply spam the most powerful attack my creature had over and over. Just like in Spore, to gain access to a tribe’s nest, you must defeat the whole tribe in battle. Nests provide an area for you to further customize your creature with upgrades so that you don’t have to travel too far to evolve your creature. While Spore Hero is mainly a single player experience, a second player can hop into battle and each player can test their creature’s abilities against a human instead of a computer opponent.
I was pretty disappointed by the few options available to customize the build and color of my creature. Spore Hero includes a stripped down creature editor to what is available in Spore, though there is ample supply of different looking part upgrades to give my creature a unique look. As upgraded parts are equipped, the creature will gain new abilities, like faster movement, the ability to swim, better defense, ranged attack, and flight. Each ability has the option to be upgraded up to four times throughout the game, though several abilities seemed to have only two upgrades available. Each time a new ability is gained that is useful in battle the next fight the creature enters is started with instructions on how to use the ability along with a couple practice attacks.
I ran into a few bugs during my play-through of Spore Hero. Beyond some background pixilation issues in certain areas, the nun chuck locked up on me twice, which is used to control the creature’s movement. The only way I found to fix this issue was to restart the game. Since there is no way to manually save progress, I had to redo quite a few battles and puzzles as a result. Having to replay portions of the game shed even more light on Spore Hero’s repetitive gameplay and unimaginative, linear level designs. I managed to get stuck at a couple of different points in the game with little idea of what to do or how to get from one area to the next. This is largely due to poor level design, though in general I found my way quite easily.
Spore Hero is fairly mild with regard to content. There is no blood or gore found in the battles and creatures simply get defeated and do not die during a fight. For whatever reason, the red crystals that the game’s antagonist has called down from outer space mesmerizes the other creatures, causing them to go crazy, worship the crystals, and defend the crystals at any cost. Thankfully, even though some of the crystals reform, you still must only defeat each creature once that is protecting the crystal. Once a crystal is destroyed, the creatures around it go back to normal and can interact normally.
Though Spore Hero is a tame game, it has quite a few moments and bugs that make it frustrating. The game’s repetitiveness made it a bit of a chore to play through, but it is fun to customize the creature and take him on an adventure. If you are simply dying for more Spore, Spore Hero is a slight twist on the successful franchise, though be aware it does not quite live up to the Spore name.
» By Stephan Mack, Plain Games. Published 5/16/2010 8:47:36 PM.