You aren't alone on the island, and much of your time will be spent interacting with the other creatures you come across. You can pet them by rubbing them with the stylus if you want to make friends. If the creature's feeling friendly back it'll invite you to dance, which in practice means playing a rhythm-action mini-game.
These get more difficult as your creature evolves, says Haber, and the amount of time and energy it takes to befriend others will depend on its sociability. Which, in turn, is determined by the design decisions you've made - the more eyes your creature has, the more sociable it will be, for example.
You can make as many friends as you want and invite up to two of them at a time to follow you round the island. The advantage of this is they can help you out in combat situations - not all the creatures you meet will be friendly. Basic combat takes place in real-time and involves drawing slashes on the screen with the stylus. Later on in the game you can collect special body parts that give you Bio-Powers. These enable your creature to do things like breathe fire, heal itself and its friends and put up shields.
Play your part
This ties in with the main theme of Spore Creatures. Yes, there are areas to explore and enemies to fight, but the game is really about using your own creativity, and seeing what effects your choices have. "The main goal is collecting new parts so you can evolve your creature," Haber reiterates. "You can make them stronger, more friendly, however you want to play."
To demonstrate the scope of this, Haber shows us some creatures he made earlier and some non-player characters he's befriended. There's a giant Loch Ness Monster-type, some kind of hybrid goat-human, a creature who looks like a giant baby. And a carrot. "It doesn't have a mouth so it can't eat anything. And it doesn't have any arms so it can't pick up anything. But you can certainly walk around as a carrot," Haber confirms. "It doesn't have any attack parts so if it gets attack, it'll just get killed. I mean, playing as a carrot is not ideal..." Certainly a first for videogames, all the same.
What's most interesting is that you'll be able to trade creatures with other players via Wi-Fi Connection. You can't interact with them online, but any creatures you download will appear as AI-controlled inhabitants of your tropical island. Any chance of connectivity with the not-officially-announced-but-inevitable Wii version of the game? "Right now we're just focused on the DS and PC games," says Haber. "So right now, it's just DS to DS connectivity." Right now.
Clearly, anyone who's expecting a handheld Spore with as much depth as the PC game is going to be disappointed. Spore Creatures is based around a much simpler concept and is a very different proposition. While the attraction of Spore for PC is the freedom to design an entire civilisation, this feels more like make-your-own-Pokmon.
The visuals are very different, too. "We went with a very specific 2D look," Haber says. "We were inspired by Japanese rod puppets and how creative people can be with those." The end result could be described as charmingly simplistic or plain and blocky, depending on your personal tastes.
Which is also what it's likely to come down to with regard to the gameplay. There are certainly plenty of Pokmon fans out there. For them, the prospect of being able to determine your character's appearance and abilities as well as their attack skills could be an appealing one. Not to mention the fact you get to play as a carrot.