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Joystiq impressions: Spore Creatures (DS)

Zack Stern

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Like many other multi-platform games, Spore DS Spore Creatures is being developed outside of EA's Maxis office. Foundation 9 -- formerly the Amaze Entertainment studio -- is handling the game. (Maxis says it's doing the "design" internally, for what that's worth.) Spore's immense scope is being cut to fit the DS screen; instead of five different phases, the DS game is more of an adventure story centering on creature creation, exploration, and evolution.

After hearing this scope -- "You know... for kids." -- I almost wrote it off outright. After seeing the game, I think it's going to appeal heavily to that young demographic, but it's also going to snag a lot of The Sims fans.

Gallery: Spore Creatures (DS) | 16 Photos

Spore Creatures begins with your character's friend being abducted by aliens. Seriously. You amble through the world, fending off attackers, making friends, and evolving, while on a quest to reclaim your pal. After seeing so much Spore already, I had to fight to stay awake while the cute story was explained.

Creatures are mostly 2D cutouts animated into a 3D world. And they look good, with smooth animation and lots of details. But the bright, saccharine world was another clue that this isn't going to hit quite the same audience as the PC version of Spore.

The creature modification, however, kept me from dozing off. Sure, it's scaled down from numerous PC options, but it's similar. Using parts that you find, and DNA points that you earn through eating and survival, you'll enter the creature editor. And just like the PC game, you'll choose from dozens of body parts with attributes oriented for attack, defense, social interaction, and more. Players can adjust part position, size, and other characteristics. Creatures can even earn "bio-powers" to breath fire or otherwise embellish on life as we know it.

Spore Creatures lets players save up to ten different creations, including those from friends over a local, peer-to-peer connection. Those creatures propagate into the game in a similar way as the PC version, letting your friends' creations take on their own lives. Gamers can also trade creatures over Nintendo's WiFi network using friend codes. Spore even allows you to meet strangers' creatures by opting out of the friend-code requirement and registering through an EA website. (Yes, I give my permission not to enter sets of 12-digit numbers.)

Spore Creatures is unique in its controls. Painting creatures is a little more fun with a stylus. And you can steer creatures with the D-pad or touch-screen. A few mini-games also subtly creep in. For example, you might need to use the stylus to dig on-screen for buried prizes. Or the stylus aims and throws rocks. From what I saw, these extras felt like a good addition to the game. A beat-matching game appeared when a creature danced to entertain a new friend. I'm more dubious of that Simon-line repetition than these other DS-only ideas.

The DS version of Spore focuses on collecting items, sure to be a hit with the Pokemon crowd. Players can earn 60 badges based on game moments -- like one for accurate rock throwing -- plus discover 280 hidden creature parts. Over its 12 levels, Spore Creatures seems like it'll be a fun way to take some of the Spore ideas away from the PC. But admittedly, it seems to be targeting a different group than the full SimEverything game.

Check out all our extensive coverage of Will Wright's Spore!

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