Sunday, April 18, 2010

We’ve got Spores

We’ve got spores in our house, but not in a bad way. It’s the latest PC game we’ve been playing as a family. Spore, by EA games.

Basically, a player creates a race of creatures, and helps them survive and evolve.

Our youngest likes to use the creator in the game to invent new creatures, which is actually quite fun, but the rest of us have had fun playing the game too. You can start your game with a basic primitive critter, wiggling around in the goop of creation, and you do your best to help it survive. You earn points as it goes, feeding and fighting. What it eats and how you play, effects the genetic points and traits earned. The first guy I created was darn slow, and apparently, very tasty. I had to make him turn and fight to survive. Everything wanted to eat him. When he managed to crawl from the muck, he earned the genetic trait “carnivore”. Had he managed to stay sheltered more, he may have been an herbivore or omnivore. Isn’t he a cute little bug? I named his race “Crunchy”… it turned out to be appropriate, as he had to crunch or be crunched to survive.


Well, I thought he was cute… but I suppose other critters remembered him from the primeval kiddy pool, because no matter how hard he tried to ‘charm’ other creatures to be his friends, they were either terrified or hateful… so he had to eat them to live.

Finding more DNA points and accomplishing quests allowed my a creature to become a very successful predator as he evolved.

CRE_Crunchy-09f42c51_ful Brian and Brad had better luck with the whole social thing… nobody liked my race! Wait. I take that back. There were a couple of tiny little critters that were not afraid of him. They adored him so intensely that they followed him into battle and adored their little selves into extinction. Sigh… Eventually he evolved into a tribal state, with a whole new set of objectives to fulfill in order to survive, succeed and evolve.

CRE_Crunchy-09f42c4f_ful By this time, I gave up on teaching this guy manners and let him embrace his vicious genetic tendencies. He tore through the tribal stage, learning to hunt as a group, fish, and domesticate animals so he could spend less time hunting, and more time eradicating the competition. Hey, it’s what worked for him. A tiger without stripes is still a tiger (and this guy has stripes).

Eventually my guy advanced enough to move into a civilization stage, and despite going in labeled as ‘aggressive’ military,  he finally managed to make a couple of allies… only a couple… but enough to eventually make it to the space age. The civilization and space age allow you to create buildings and vehicles, as well as customize your creature's accessories. It sounds simple, but the graphics and interface are really good and it’s fun to use your own creations in the game.

Brad managed to get a race to these later stages completely peacefully – earning the racial trait of religion. He’d convert others to his way of doing things. Brian played an economic game… which is somewhere in the middle.  I’m not done playing this particular race. Crunchy is now allied with a couple of other space age races, and is filling the role of galactic police. When his buds need help, they know who to call. 

The game is not just about eating things and fighting. Your character has to earn resources in order to advance, to equip his vehicles, protect his cities, etc. He must provide factories to increase production, but not too many factories, because without devoting some resources to entertainment, the people will be unhappy. You must colonize planets in order to gain more resources, but of course, this costs. Some planets are nothing but bare rock and the player will want to terraform the planet to increase production and therefore profits. It is a bit of a puzzle as you must adjust the atmosphere and temperature (with costly tools), then add plant and animal life in order to keep it stable. There are quests and errands you can take from other races in order to gain friends and allies. There is even a bit of business involved as you trade resources for cash. You need to be smart about how much you buy and sell items for so that you can turn a profit. Buy low, sell high, save up to buy what you need to run a good business, and allocate resources efficiently … getting a kid to think in math and economics is not bad game play! I also believe there are good, basic, lessons to be learned regarding ecological balance, evolution, cause and effect, and diplomacy.

It’s a versatile game that allows you to start play at whatever stage you feel. You can start as a cell, or create a tribal guy and go from there, etc. Spore allows multiple games to be stored, good for a family. Rather like the Sims games (Which is less of a kid game. It's good, but has adult situations/humor.). In Sims, each house/family is a separate game, and in Spore, each ‘planet/race’ is a separate game.

You can also upload or download creatures from the Spore homepage – there are some very creative folk out there – which makes the game even more interesting. You never know which of your, or someone else’s, creatures will show up in your game as a creature, or fellow intelligent race. One example, that had my husband and I giggling like kids (the real kids were in bed at the time), is when Crunchy was still in the tribal stage. He and his gang were running into a canyon chasing some ferocious food-animals, when they were attacked by a rare epic creature. An epic is a HUGE version of a creature. The ironic thing is that this epic was another of my creations (not grown from a cell, but something I’d made while experimenting with the creator). I have to say, it looked awesome in giant-sized action. I made one heck of a monster! But it ate my entire tribe. Yes, we were laughing, but only because it was so unexpected. There they were, running through the woods, professional hunters on the move.. and like an old fashioned monster movie… Godzilla suddenly appears atop a slope, poses and roars mightily, then rampages down and destroys everything! What the..?!? Fortunately, the game is very forgiving and lets you start again at your last save point, as many times as needed, which is especially good for when Honor plays. It is tough to play at times, and unlimited do-overs helps avoid frustration in younger (or older!) players.

We enjoy this game and recommend it for families, but remember…

…beware of epic crabdragons!



Natalie said...

Between the cats and the spore critters, your household is a power to be reckoned with! :)

Nicole said...

That would be a game that Shaymus would love! We used to play something like that on the computer, I just cant remember what it was called. It had something to do with dinosaurs though....

Connie said...

Natalie - Fortunately, the spores can't get out of the computer, and the cats cannot use tools ;D

Nicole - To me, it's like playing a 'family friendly' game that is something between "The Sims", (with a race, instead of a family to care for, or perhaps one of the SimCity type games at a basic level), and a business game, (like Gazillionaire or Zapitalism, which are simple, but highly addictive games about running a profitable space export company ). As it's something we can enjoy as a family, I thought it worth sharing :)