Stuff We’re Loving: The Brighter Side of Evolution

EA Games made me exceptionally happy about two weeks ago; that’s the day I bought their newest baby, Will Wright’s Spore.  From flagella-flapping ameoba, to six-limbed scorpion-horse, you play as a creature of your own creation, evolving from tidal pool to galactic power, free-wheeling around the stars in a spaceship of your own design, trading, befriending, and blasting your way through hundreds and thousands of planets as you go.  It’s the coolest thing since Tony Jaa’s muay thai chase scene.

Spore’s a fun game, although many critics lash it for a draconic disk protection system that actually functions as a separate program on your computer, latching onto your computer like a tick and feasting off your system resources to feed back EA information about possible piracy activities.  The same program also tracks your installations and cuts you off at five, newly increased from three, at which point you may call up your friendly EA representative who will interview you for the privelege of earning a new installation.  And EA reserves the right to deny your requests.

EA has received a lot of criticism over it’s anti-piracy system, called SecuRom, which, so far, has completely failed at stopping piracy.  Spore is now the most pirated game ever.

But with all its faults in programming, as well as more meaningful complaints about lackluster difficulty and rather childish graphics, I’m fairly enamored with the game.  I’m a bit of a science geek; I consider certain projects at CERN well-meaning, if misguided, attempts to discover helpful new facets of scientific knowledge (credit to my colleague Jose Silva for reports on CERN’s LHC), and I think Darwin would had the same warm and fuzzy feeling inside of his chest that I do when I make a purple rhino with six horns and the mouth of an anteater.

The same feeling comes over me when my three-legged tree-hugger monkey-horses start dancing around a bon fire, shaking their juju sticks.  It’s kind of cool, and the little details in the game really make it.

Spore definitely isn’t as cool as it was hyped to be, but that may be because two years ago Will Wright made a whole conventions of fan boys want to touch themselves in Mature rated ways.  After two years of hype and delays, the bar for Spore might have been set at about sauropod heights. It doesn’t surprise me all that much that some people are disappointed with the game, especially given the fact that it isn’t exactly linear like most games.  You can’t beat Spore, there’s no ‘end’ to it, except when you get bored exploring the universe, and creating new monsters and vehicles in the numerous editors.  

Essentially, it’s a time-killing game, like you might find on freearcade or coffeebreakgames, except that unlike most little flash games, this one is long and it doesn’t suck, mostly because it plays to the instant gratification most people expect.  You want to blow stuff up, or do trading runs, or terra-form planets; scoot on over to Space mode.  You want a really easy Command and Conquer clone, except with more simplistic sim elements, play in civilization or tribal mode, which are both enjoyable for slightly different reasons.  Cell mode is a fun way to span 10-15 minutes, and leads straight into Creature mode, where you run around with your simplistic creation, singing other creatures into friendship, or eating their faces off.  Once you’ve unlocked a level, you can instantly start a new game in that mode, and you can enter any of the editors fully without even having to play, just to mess around with the vehicle, building, and creature editors.

All in all, I’d give it a 9 out of 10, not because it’s perfect, just because it’s all I want in a video game; a way to waste time that I should be spending writing news stories.

 

– Fernando Arrue

P.S. Spore pics here

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