Players can create and test creatures

Spore is an ambitious game in which players control the life cycle of a planet

Owen Sound Sun Times (On)
Monday, June 23, 2008

Here it is!
Will Wright, the creator of the hugely popular game “The Sims” has been tantalizing gamers with videos of his new project, “Spore”, for the last three years. We’ve finally got something tangible, the Spore Creature Creator.
“Spore” is an ambitious game in which players will control the entire life cycle of a planet, starting with a one-celled organism. Players will be able to custom design creatures to populate their world and share their creations with other players. The Creature Creator lets players make creatures and test them, but nothing more. Still it’s very cool to have even a part of “Spore” to test.
The creature creator comes in two flavours, Free Trial or $9.99 (I’m not sure if this price contributes to your eventual purchase of “Spore” or not). In any case I’ve been using the free version.
Making a creature is a bit like building with LEGO, if each LEGO piece was made of Play-Doh. You start with the body and you can control the length of the body and its general shape. This is all done by pointing and clicking the mouse. After you have a complete body, various mouths, eyes, arms and legs can be added and tweaked. The best part is the customization. Make a creature with four mouths and 10 eyes? Sure! Six legs and one arm? Sure!
Everything works, and for now that’s about it, but each body part will be relevant in the final game. The parts you pick will determine what and how the creature eats, how strong or fast it is, how it interacts with other creatures, etc.
The creator lets you take your creature for a test drive. You can command it to move around and perform various activities to see how it would move in the game.
After you’re finished your creature, you can share it with friends. That’s the really cool part; “Spore” lets you take screenshots, make animated forum avatars, or even record videos and upload them directly to YouTube. You can also upload your creature to the Sporepedia (a compendium of everyone’s creatures) so other players can see your genetic abomination. It’s all pretty slick. Supposedly creatures that are uploaded between now and when the final game ships (September, 2008) will eventually crawl through the tubes that comprise the Internet and end up in everyone’s Spore worlds. I can’t wait to see how that turns out.
The presentation of the Spore Creature Creator is great, everything is easy to find and get to, and making a creature is as simple as dragging things with the mouse and squishing them together (though some of the nuances can be a bit complex). If the final game keeps up the slick user-friendly presentation, it should be pretty impressive.
The system requirements for the creature creator are pretty low and the trial is free, so I highly recommend you check it out. You might be surprised by how fun making silly creatures can be!
In addition to the Spore Creature Creator I’ve been playing “Race Driver GRID”, a new racing game from Codemasters. It’s kind of a new experience for me as it’s more of a racing simulation than I’m used to (I don’t do “Gran Turismo”). I’ve played a lot of “Mario Kart” and “Need for Speed”, but “GRID” is not an arcade game, you have to brake going through turns and going off the track results in a spectacularly long and dizzying spin.
The presentation in “GRID” is what first sold me. It’s got a great 3D rendered menu that swoops over a 3D garage while you’re selecting options. As races start the driver’s names and standings are displayed in 3D next to the cars. It’s very polished and works well.
Other than that, “GRID” is just a good racing game. You go through race after race earning a reputation and news cars (though I’m not very far yet, because I’m still at the spinning out on all the corners stage of driving school). The controls are solid and responsive and each of the cars handle differently.
“GRID” does have one incredibly cool new feature, the instant replays. As with most racing games you can watch a complete replay of your race, but there’s more. “GRID” features very realistic damage to the cars, and you can and will total your car. However, should this happen you get to use the instant replay to rewind to before you crashed, reset your car on the track and give that hairpin turn another go. You only get a certain number of resets each race, so you can’t go crashing willy-nilly, but should you crash, you can watch the crash over and over again before resetting, and I won’t lie, that’s my favourite part.
I’m still wrapping my head around the more realistic style of “GRID”, but it’s the most I’ve ever played a sim style racing game, so if you already like sim racing games, give “GRID” a go and if you generally stick to arcade racers, you might still want to check out “GRID”.
Calen Henry is a graduate of Japanese Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University. He grew up in Owen Sound, has been a gamer since childhood and is also interested in music and film.

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