Spore falls a little short
of its promise at every stage, but bear in mind that its concept is as close as we've come to a game incarnation of the Lord our God. It's a game about evolving a lifeform from an amoeba up to the point at which
it develops space travel, journeys to the centre of the galaxy and discovers the secrets of the universe. It's loftier than Jean-Paul Sartre discussing metaphysics with
It's also simple, cute and fun. Spore turns every phase of that journey - cell, creature, tribe, civilisation and space - into a caricatured minigame, and the principles of survival into game mechanics. At every stage there are things weaker than you, and things that are stronger than you. Things you can attack, flee from or befriend.
Those 'things' are the soul of Spore. It's a singleplayer game, but the world you play in is filled with creatures and objects other people have made. The actual business of attacking, fleeing and befriending varies from crude to decent - it's the lifeforms you're doing these things with that make Spore so sublime.
During my first time through the Tribe stage, I came across a 150-foot-tall chair. It was beautifully crafted, with a feather motif inlaid in its back, and it was walking. Loudly. I was hoping the chair would attack another tribe's village at some point. I never dared to hope it would be a village full of old men in wheelchairs. The wheelchair is actually part of these creatures, modelled by a user called theWOODman after his 'Crazy Old Grandpa'.
I think I actually cried laughing at the ensuing battle. The epic chair had to buckle its legs and seat to stoop down and nudge the wheelchair men with its giant knee, while they wheeled around their campfire and chucked spears at it. Eventually, the gargantuan chair had enough and hobbled off, full of spears. The Crazy Old Grandpa tribe celebrated. Spore was an attempt to leverage the quantity of content players will create, but it's ended up being a testament to the quality.
Maxis, I mean this as the highest possible compliment of your game, but next to your player's creatures your own stuff is pathetic. I actually tried to ban you from my game to make way for better things, but apparently that's not allowed. So your creatures remain the wallflowers among an ecosystem of gasp-inducing works of art, fascinating abominations, and big fat cocks.
Actually Maxis have done an impressive job pruning the obscenities from the online repository of shared creations that the game draws from. But happily, you'll still encounter disgusting things. One of the most talented creature creators out there, ststeel, has a fetish for mutilated naked zombie women who crawl along on their hands, gaping sores on their dangling breasts. Subscribe to his stuff for the pretty mice-people, stay for the undead porn.
Of course, one creature is impressive, fascinating and grotesquely adorable for an entirely different reason: you made it. I don't know you personally, but I'm going to insult you and say that the cells, creatures, vehicles, buildings and spaceships you make will not be quite as artfully or painstakingly crafted as the best that crop up in your game. But you will love them more, as I do mine, and delight to watch them smash the prettier and better-made ones.
These two factors - the brilliance of everyone else's creations, and your affection for your own - have varying relevance at each stage of the game. What's slightly frustrating is that the stages with the most interesting mechanics aren't the ones that let you see these magnificent bastards up close and personal. Those ones are functionally very basic, but any time these monsters fill the screen, nothing else matters.