|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Maxis||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 17, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
The full version of Spore is still months away, but the masses huddled behind PC screens have found ample ways to keep busy as they wait in anticipation for its release. The past week has seen an epic surge of creativity and depravity with the arrival of Maxis' Spore Creature Creator - a fun and handy utility that allows players to craft their own beasties to share and eventually import into the main game. Though the internet has been flooded with user-made creatures both modeled after and containing voluminous amounts of "genitalia" - a quick search of "Spore" on YouTube reveals scores of amusingly disturbing creations - there are plenty of non-vile ways to utilize the robust editing program.
Spore Creature Creator hints at amazing things to come, but this news should be old hat for those who have been following the lengthy development cycle of Will Wright's unique evolution and life simulator. Spore will task players with building vast civilizations and eventually traveling beyond earthly confines to encounter life (and obliterate it if necessary) on other worlds. The unique thing is they must nurture and grow their empire from a tiny microscopic seed. These microorganisms of your own design will grow, adapt, and can be modified as they make the transition through five stages of evolution. It all begins with a little creativity.
The flexibility given to players is impressive, and the creation utility's ease of use is more than welcome. Thanks to the intuitive interface, it's really quite simple to jump right in and get started playing god by molding your beings in any image (however grotesque) you might see fit. All creatures start as a strange blob with a spine floating above a small pedestal. Using the mouse as your multi-purpose tool, you can manipulate the blob into a truly bizarre range of shapes and sizes. Individual vertebrae can be adjusted to reduce or enlarge the proportion of a particular section of the main body. The front and back of the blob can also be elongated to create necks or tails, and the entire frame can be twisted and manipulated into interesting positions. The camera can be zoomed in and rotated for a better view during the process.
From there, you can pluck different body parts and elements from a handful of available menus and plop them practically anywhere onto the body of your creature. Menu categories include mouths, eyes and senses, arms and legs, graspers, feet, weapons, and details. Each contains dozens of oddities that can be used to make your creations wild and crazy or cute and cuddly. Eyes range from more traditional shapes to bug-like clusters and stalks. Mouths can be basic animal-looking affairs or contain fangs, tusks, and other grisly features. Arms and legs can be stretched and warped into all kinds of different lengths and shapes. Hands and feet run the gamut from webbed fingers to claw-like appendages. Weaponry includes tusks, horns, sharp claws, spikes, and other harmful implements. Finally, the details menu includes minor nuances for putting some finishing touches on your beast that give it charm and other bonuses.
Once any element is placed, it can be moved around or removed at any time. Those individual parts can then be further adjusted for size, orientation, length, and other factors. This is all easily done by clicking on various portions and then dragging the mouse around. You can also select from a range of skin colors and textures to give your creature some pizzazz. While you're free to create some pretty insane-looking creations, there are limitations to how much you can tinker with a particular creature. First, you're given a DNA budget of $2,000 for each creature, and every part you pick up costs a certain DNA fee. The other factor to consider is the complexity of the beast's anatomy. As you add parts, a meter tracks the complexity of the creature, and eventually it will max out. Even with these minor limitations there's quite a range of possibilities available with the editor.