In case you somehow missed it, Spore was one of the most popular PC games of last year. It spawned a mediocre DS spin-off but what we really wanted was a Wii version with the power to let us create our own critters. Spore Hero isn't quite that, but it's close enough.
Despite the PC game's unique selling point - that there were thousands and thousands of galaxies in Spore and it would take many lifetimes to actually see everything the game had to offer - the Wii version goes in the complete opposite direction. It's a linear, set storyline that lets you roam around but doesn't really allow you to stray off-course too much.
The game begins with your creature hatching out of an egg. At first it's a small blob with two legs and a set of eyes, which is fairly useless in the Spore world. Shortly after meeting your first friendly creature however, you're introduced to the game's main feature: the ability to add body parts.
Any time you go back to your nest - or any of the other nests you come across throughout the game - you enter the creature creation screen where you can change the appearance of your organism and add or remove different body parts.
The first body part you add in the game is a mouth. This lets your creature eat any fruit lying on the floor and bite any enemies it gets into scraps with. Other body parts add extra abilities as you progress through the game. While your legs let you kick opponents, adding arms will let you punch them too. Add fins to swim and wings to glide, or stick horns on your creature to give it the ability to charge at your enemies, inflicting huge damage.
The Spore The Merrier
Each part has its own level of effectiveness, so a mouth that looks like a sucker won't bite quite as powerfully as one that looks like a set of crocodile teeth. As you complete various missions and help other characters out you'll gain new, stronger parts which you can swap for your existing weaker ones.
To do this though, you need to collect the numerous blue crystals dotted around the land. The stronger the part, the more crystals you need to be able to equip it. This stops you from just slapping a million horns on the thing and creating an invincible beast, and is a clever way of forcing you to decide which parts (and therefore abilities) are completely necessary and which you could do without until you find more crystals.
The character creation system is straightforward to use, though it can be a little glitchy at times. We would have liked an option to remove body parts from a list instead of having to point at them and drag them off the body, since often when morphing the creature (you can stretch its main body and limbs, or choose from a selection of set body shapes) various mouths and eyes would glitch and get stuck inside it as it morphed, making us unable to remove them since we couldn't see them. Since the number of body parts you can add is limited, this prevented us from adding extra parts until we re-morphed the body and removed the hidden parts. It's a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things but one that could potentially confuse a younger player.
The Monster Mash
Our other gripe is that, for some reason, we get the feeling that development was rushed a little towards the end. There are two main ways to pick up body parts: completing missions and gathering them from bones lying around. There are almost 350 body parts in total to collect, so it'll take you a while to get them all. However, it seems like a few corners have been cut. One task is simply called "Defeat the Combat Master 15 times". Every time you beat him you get a new body part. It's as if the developers were running out of time and needed to find a quick way to use up the rest of the parts they hadn't allocated a mission to yet. Also disappointing are the pointless dancing and singing mini-games that seem to have been chucked into add some more variety but are ultimately a waste of time and feel tacked-on. The rest of the game is of a high quality, so these seem out of place.
Had a little more time and care been spent ironing out the niggles - some repetitive missions, last-minute mini-games, even a lot of grammatical errors in the script - this would have been a cracker. As it is though, it's still an imaginative adventure game and one that'll keep you busy for a while.