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WiiTalk at EA, Part 2 - Spore Hero

Written by FooFan on Friday, 21 August 2009No Comment

From the minute that the game was loaded up, to the end of the hand-on session, there was one thing that was universally noticeable among all of the people who were present at EA. Spore Hero is a lot of fun. I don’t know whether it was because we had just come from playing Dead Space Extraction, or because this was a game with high expectations, but the instantly likeable bright colours, humorous gameplay and massive scope for creation in this game made 10 grown men giggle like school kids for an hour. Spore was a big game, and unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you will know at least a little bit about it. It brought new levels of user-creation and depth to the gaming world, which instantly became a hit with a lot of gamers. Its main feature (The ability to create your character down to the finest detail) gave the players a level of character design which had never been seen before and meant the game became more of a personal experience.

So when Spore Hero was announced for the Wii, it deservedly got a lot of attention and has been one to look out for since. Many people questioned how they would chose to develop a Wii version and many decided that it would simply be a vastly stripped down version whatever it was. Well let’s see what they’ve come up with…

The basic back story is that 2 meteors have crashed into your planet, one red and one blue. The red meteor housed an angry little creature whose intentions are not so good for your planet and its inhabitants, the blue meteor on the other hand… Well, that’s where you came from! So it’s up to you to stop this red Meteor creature from causing more havoc on the planet by destroying the red meteor rocks that appear and make any nearby creatures go crazy. The first thing you’ll do in Spore Hero is hatch from your egg. A few vigorous shakes of the Wii Remote seem to do the trick and then you’re introduced to your world in your true Hero form… That is, what can be best described as, a ball with eyes and legs. Cue more giggles from the group. Yes, unfortunately it’s going to take a bit of work before you reach your true hero potential, but it is within this that Spore Hero’s true charm is found. A ball with eyes and legs can still see and walk though, so, now in control of your hero, you step out of your nest and into the world around you. The first thing you will notice about this world is that it’s everything a Nintendo game world should be; Colourful, Bright and generally a happy place. Indeed, it looks like a mixture of Banjo Kazooie and DK64, a true calling to Rare’s great work on Nintendo’s systems. EA Montreal clearly know their Nintendo games and their desire to take inspiration from previous classics is instantly noticeable and a pleasant sight indeed. Even the background music is as joyful as the world itself, a complete contrast to the Dead Space Extraction environment we were playing in less than 10 minutes ago! Having mastered walking, my first task was to talk to the creature that had carried my egg from the meteor. It resembles a dragon in most ways, but the kind of dragon that would be seen failing dragon school in a cartoon, rather than burning knights to a crisp. Whenever you talk to someone in the game, the text appears on-screen along with the kind of strange noises we are used to from EA and Nintendo that somehow represent speech. It’s enough to get another laugh out of the group though and it’s a trademark of this style of game that would be missed if left out. The scrawny dragon offers me a berry to eat and I hit my first hurdle on the way to Hero status. I don’t have a mouth. Alas the fate of the planet seems doomed until I am instructed to head back to my nest, a.k.a the Creature Editor.

Now this is where the fun begins. The creature editor on the PC game was incredibly detailed and refined, yet still easy to use. Well I’m very pleased to say that Spore Hero has the full creature editor that appeared in the PC version of spore. Not only that, but it also includes all ‘parts’(We’ll get onto those in a sec) from the Creepy and Cute Expansion pack and some that have been designed specifically for Spore Hero on the Wii. The first thing I do is change the body shape of my Hero. Ball on legs is ok, but I’m looking for something a bit more menacing. So I bring up the body selection menu and I’m greeted with several pages of body shapes, pretty much everything you could dare to imagine is here and you can watch your creature transform into any of the shapes at a click of a button. It’s a very cool animation effect to see the creature not just instantly transform into the shape, but almost evolve into it over a period of seconds. Not only that, but you can adjust the height and size of your creature by dragging the body up or down or zooming in and increasing the mass of it. The rest of the body parts extend of shorten in respect to where you place the body, so anything is possible. I soon find something befitting of a hero and move onto the next step, which is where parts come in.

Parts are exactly what they sound like, things you can put on your creature to either help them in various situations or make them look like whatever you can imagine in the depths of your mind. They’re all here including limbs, eyes, mouths, weapons, hands and feet, ensuring that you will create a creature that it totally unique. So I give my creature a mouth, this is as simple as selecting the mouth I want and then placing it anywhere on my creature… And when I say ‘Anywhere’ I mean it. There are no rules in Spore, your creature can have as many of each type of part as you like and they may be placed where you like as well. 5 mouths, 3 eyes, 1 leg and 2 arms, is just one combination that I ‘tested’. This is certainly when you begin to realise just what a powerful tool the creature editor is and just how many hours you could spend creating various creatures, without ever progressing through the game! Even the joints on the limbs are moveable. If you want super long arms that reach upwards, then it’s as easy to achieve as a couple of drags with the Wii remote, if you’d prefer long legs, but short movement, then that’s just as easy to do. The size of all parts can be altered to your preference along with the angle and direction they face. And yet somehow, it all remains so easy to use. A small child could easily get to grips with the editor and it’s to EA and Maxis’ great credit that they achieved that as I’ve seen editors in other games become far too confusing due to their ambition.

So finally I’m happy with how my creature looks and after selecting a colour (Another multiple pages of choice) I give my creature a name and head back out into the world. Only once your creature is walking around do you really get an idea of what you’ve created. The reason for this is because, depending on how you design your creature’s arms, legs and joints, it will move in respect to how it looks. That’s to say that the animation of your creature’s movement depends on what they look like. So if you give your creature big legs, he will take big strides, whereas if you give him little legs, he will take little steps, but more of them. The same goes for the movement of his arms and any other part. It’s a very impressive feature that really adds to the creative experience and continues this sense of personalisation and uniqueness.

So I finally remember that I originally went into the editor just to get a mouth and head back to the dragon-thing. Now I can respond to him and he tells me a bit about the world and how this strange red meteor crashed recently and has been causing some of the creatures to act a bit crazy. He also suggests I head over to another weird dragon creature to find out about fighting. It seems that in this world, like most others, the way to gain respect is by defeating other creatures in battles. You can fight any creature in the world (Except the babies) by running up to them and kicking them (A shake on the remote). This prompts another laugh from the group and we’re into battle mode. Battle mode is fairly simple, it’s you vs the enemy and you can attack them in a variety of ways. The twist is that certain parts give you certain abilities, so if you want your creature to be a dominating force in this world, he’ll need to have the right parts to do it. We were assured that it is possible to get through the game without any special parts, and would be seen as a challenge to a lot of players, but it would be a lot harder. The battle mechanics are simple enough, you both have a health bar and the creature whose health bar reaches 0 first, loses. You can attack your opponent by biting them (b), hitting/kicking them (shake) or charging up and then hitting them (hold b, and then shake). You can also block by using Z and dodge by jumping out of the way with A. You will have to use a combination of all of these to be successful and it makes for quite a satisfying, if a bit repetitive, experience. It’s also worth noting at this point that the battle mode can be played as local multiplayer where you will have a selection from some pre-made creatures, creatures you unlock and any creature that you create in-game. After defeating my enemy I am given a part as a reward, we were told that the type of part you get depends on what type of quest you are doing. For example, if you consider yourself a fighter and spend most of the time attacking enemies, you will get combat parts to add to your hero, whereas if you spend a lot of time exploring and finding hidden areas, you will be exploration parts that will help your overall movements.

Spore Hero’s gameplay works in the form of quests, you will see plenty on creatures around you with question marks over their heads which means they need help with something. It’s entirely up to you which quests you take on and which ones you turn down, only now and then will you be told to speak to someone else and do a quest for them, before being able to access a new area or something. Obviously, the more quests you do, the more parts you get and there’s plenty here to keep the completionists busy. There is, however, no way to tell whether a quest is story based or just a side quest, so those wanting to just rush through the game will have to speak to most creatures anyway. Health is recharged by eating berries which can be knocked down from most trees with a good kick and the currency is ‘Shards’ which are actually shards from the meteor you crashed in. You will see several rocks with blue sparkles in them, simply smash them and the shards will appear. A nice little feature is that you don’t have to then run around and pick them all up; the shards are automatically attracted to you like a magnet. Parts can also be dug up where you see skeletons of creatures on the ground. Each part you put on your creature has a shard value, so the amount of shards you hold ultimately decides how much you can add to your hero. Better parts have a higher shard value so sometimes you have to balance your needs with your wants and you will find yourself returning to the nearest nest to change your creature fairly regularly, but this is all part of the fun of spore.

You will also have opportunities to change the creatures around you. One of the first quests is to help a creature whose girlfriend doesn’t recognise him anymore because he’s been turned into a big ball of ‘Fluff’. After talking to the Girlfriend, you find out that he used to be very scary looking, so you return to the beast and edit him to make him look as scary as possible. We were told there would be lots of chances to edit Non-playable characters in the game and it’s just another way that the game encourages creativity and uniqueness as those characters will remain as you made them, leaving your own mark on the world. There are also a few mini-games that will crop up including a dancing game where you have to shake the remote, nunchuk and combination of both to the beat and a Donkey Kong-inspired game where you have to race another creature to the top of a hill while a much bigger creature throws boulders down at you. They both work well and are a nice addition to the gameplay.

Overall I really enjoyed my time on Spore Hero(As you can probably tell by this essay!) and it’s shaping up to be a game that most fans of Nintendo will enjoy as it’s blending the old with the new. I have never played the original spore (Much to my embarrassment) so I don’t know whether this will be a case of ‘Seen it all before’ for people who have. The beauty of Spore Hero though, is that it is only the single creature part of the spore universe that you play, there is no microbe section, or universe section, both of which I understand are not as enjoyable. So Wii owners aren’t just getting a port of one part of the original game, but an extension of what that part offered players of Spore. Those that haven’t played the original should definitely find this game as fresh, original and fun as I did in my short time with it and the potential is there for it to be one of the Wii’s best games to date. It ticks all the boxes for a Nintendo classic and I certainly hope it gets the success it deserves.

Spore Hero will be released October 9th

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