Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that not all games are about guns or cars or zombies. It's refreshing when a producer doesn't bang on and on about the number of weapons or the individual polygon count of the hero's eyelashes or why the enemies have machetes for limbs. It's good when they say things like, "I mean, playing as a carrot is not ideal. But you can do it if you want."
That's coming from Jason Haber, producer on the DS version of Spore. It's being developed specially for the handheld by Maxis, and they're not pretending it'll have anything like the scope of the EA game. "We knew that trying to take the entirety of the gameplay might have been a little too difficult for the DS, and we wanted to nail one part of the game," explains Haber.
"We were trying to hit the key tenets of what we feel Spore is, which is creativity, connectivity and exploration... We focused just on the creature phase of the game, because we felt it really worked well for the DS platform."
So you won't be evolving an entire civilisation from a single cell like in the PC game. Spore Creatures, as it's aptly titled, is all about designing your own unique creature and collecting extra parts with which to enhance their abilities.
Talkin' bout an evolution
Haber begins our demo of the game by showing off the creature creator. You start out with a simple torso shape and small collection of parts to stick on it. Each has different effects; a long tail will make your creature better at defence, for example, while extra eyes will make it better at spotting holes in the ground so it can dig for hidden treasures.
There are 30 levels of evolution and 275 parts to collect as you progress. Each part can be scaled and rotated, and there are lots of options for choosing your creature's skin colour, markings and so on. A good selection of parts is available early on, Haber says; the idea being it's simple to design a creature that's unique in terms of both looks and abilities.
Once you're happy with your basic level-one design, you can start exploring the tropical island it inhabits. Moving your creature is done by using the stylus to drag it around, or there's the d-pad option. "Generally I prefer to use the stylus," Haber states. "It's just more fun, and it means you can play with one hand." He really does like his game.