PAX 2008 hands-on: Spore, have we seen enough already?


The last stop on our Electronic Arts booth tour at PAX was dedicated to Spore. That's right, it's more Spore news. It's not a real day on Joystiq unless you get some minor Spore news, or a definitive hands-on experience. With the game actually coming out (can it be?!) in five days, maybe you'll start to see these die down a bit. Unless, of course, there's a secret Hot Coffee level that we find during our explorations.

But is the game coming out a bit too late, or just in time? It feels like it's starting to wear out its welcome just a bit. Like that house guest that just won't leave, is Spore in danger of becoming a bore? German gamer mags have already given the game fairly disappointing scores, and in all honesty, we were ready to leave our demo early, even though we went hands-on with the whole thing. Find out why after the break.
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The EA folks didn't show us anything that we hadn't seen before, and they took us through all of the different game stages, right up to the point where you launch into space. Carl Sagan and EA told us space was vast, and they sure weren't kidding. It's huge. Massive. Giganimous. According to the developer we spoke to, "You'll spend far more time in space than you will in the rest of the game." We believe it.

Now, the bad news, and this might just be a byproduct of playing it at a kiosk in the middle of a massive gaming convention... but we started to get bored. Once our creatures developed military vehicles and we could pound the crap out of our friendly neighbors (you're singing at me? TAKE THIS!), it picked up a bit. However, I was thinking "Gee, I sure hope I get more excited when this comes out."

When we ventured out into the giant playground of space, our interest factor (we need a HUD for that thing) started to waver. You know it's not a good sign during a demo when you start wondering about things like "Hmm, what am I going to have for lunch?" and "Did I leave the iron on?" or "Can I play Mirror's Edge one more time?" Have we had enough Spore? A PAX attendee behind us leaned over and remarked to her friend "So... is this it? It looks like The Sims in Space." Not bad, random attendee.

So, what was boring about it? Exactly the things that are supposed to be fresh and exciting. Creating creatures is fun, but developing them and helping them along to each new level was slow and plodding. Remember when everyone bought a Tamagotchi because it was the coolest thing in the world and OMG you just had to have one? Then when you played with it for about two days, you lost interest. Millions of Tamagotchi's died due to boredom. Spore is like a Tamagotchi times a thousand.

Even the EA rep was skipping us from the cell level to the creature level to the tribal level and so on. Yes, I know that's because it takes eons (literally) to get your creatures to those levels, but the gameplay element of actually making it that far just wasn't doing it for me. At least it wasn't doing it for me in a loud convention filled with teeming masses of people who wanted to see what you were doing, and in some cases hadn't bathed in awhile.

It's impossible to translate a kiosk experience to playing at home, but it's easy enough to know what's fun at a kiosk and what isn't. I'm not saying Spore wasn't fun, because it was... from time to time. But you can't ignore your brain when it starts prodding you to move on, and I ended up leaving a lot earlier than I thought I would. I'm still planning on picking this one up, but I hope I don't have to tase myself every five minutes to keep my excitement level running high.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.