Yep, "THE" SPORE, from creator of the Sims and all that. Due to its limited nature, it's sometimes known as "SPORE: Origins". This is the next BIG thing. Now available on mobile, before they hit the consoles and PCs. How does it fare? You wonder.
The mobile version is but a SMALL portion of the game that is on the console or PC. Basically, it's the "spore to microbe stage" of the full game. However, it is quite challenging in itself.
Start as a tiny spore, survive three levels, and you can get to improve yourself. In the levels, you need to survive by eating smaller stuff to accumulate DNA, and avoid larger stuff. Improvements come in 4 categories: vision, movement, offense, and defense. You can also choose to customize appearance by modifying color, texture, and size(s) of body (and each segment, if you have multiple segments). If you have added appendages for movement or combat, you can choose where to put them as well. Cycle continues: every 3 levels, improvement. Some levels have special challenges, such as "kill a boss predator by eating his tail", or "kill the superlarge critters by teasing other critters into it so when it dies you can eat the remains".
The surrounding changes, from the primordial soup to volcanic crevices to deep sea to beaches. The critters will change as well. Some critters will shoot, others scoot really fast, others morph (green phase is poisonous, blue phase is delicious), and so on.
Once your spore has made it to the beach and survived the final "level", you've finished "evolution", and unlocked "survival" and "arena" modes. However, the game is NOWHERE near "finished", unless you want to leave it.
Survival mode is the most arcade-ish of the game. Basically, you take your grown-up spore and try to survive as long as possible against other critters, with occasional powerups.
The 'fun' part of the game is in 'arena', where you take your spore and pit it against other people's spores, and they have an AI controlled battle, and see who ends up on top. Thousands have already signed up for EA online account, and you WILL need Internet connectivity through your phone to play this way. Basically, watch your critter battle and cheer it on and groan and all that. The AI basically jousts, but it will run away, eat some smaller critters to replenish itself, and use special powers like electrify. However, it is a passive experience.
You can't just "put" a new spore in the Arena. You must play through Evolution mode to have that spore available in Arena, and your entire battle history is recorded, how many wins, how many losses. If you win, you can send a "victory cry" to the other user. Or you can just go for a rematch. It's a full online community, almost, except there's no chatting in the game. You can do "find", "challenge", random match, rank match, and so on.
Graphics are excellent for a 2D game, and parallax scrolling makes the game look more 3D than it is. Little details abound. All the critters have eyes (many have a LOT!) and the eyes blink. Those that have visible mouths will 'chomp', the flagella will flutter to propel, spikes will deploy, and so on. And on my LG VX9900 enV the game is full screen except for small status bar on top.
The actual play is not as much fun though... It's basically "snake", except you don't grow larger, and you don't worry about running over yourself, just a lot of other nasty critters out to eat YOU. In fact, there are only the direction pad, OK (dash to eat locked-on critter), and right soft button (to fire the weapon, if any), and that's all the controls. So you basically go back and forth, avoiding big guys and eating small guys. And that's it. It's the special challenges that makes things more interesting. As mentioned before, some levels have you eat a boss, or tease other predators into hitting the really big critters so you can eat the remains, and so on. Those keep the game from being monotonous, but some of those are also extremely hard. It's possible to make a wrong move, and die within 5 seconds as a predator decided you're too tempting to let you pass.
Sound is more New Age than Electronic, which is good, but it repeats too soon. I basically play with it OFF.
All in all, SPORE is one of those games that has that "try again" feel, rare on the mobile games. Even when you "finish" the game, you just feel that you need to do it all over again so that you can get ANOTHER Spore up and running, and this one will fare better in the arena, or so you hope. And every spore you generate will be different... And that is the amazing part.
Overall rating: 9.0 out of 10 (!)
Pros: easy to learn, impossible to "master"
Cons: some levels extremely hard, arena too "passive"
About This Place
First started in late 2007, Kasey's Mobile Game Review (then just a regular feature of Kasey's Korner) started as a simul-post between here and IGN. Later I realized there's no reason to post it twice, when I can use the traffic on my own site. so, here we are, in 2010, and the mobile game industry has grown a bit. What do you think?