Yesterday, after a pulled pork sandwich dinner that couldn't be beat, our friends pmat
and me to the latest game that's been eating our friends' brains: Spore.
After some tinkering with cache size (to improve our chances of seeing our budding critter as the graphics engine chugged along), we duly oohed and aaahed over the impressive galactic view and the start-of-your-home-planet sequence. (We let the game name ours Javin.) Our Spikeworm quickly grew until, in an amazingly short time, it was ready to develop legs and climb out onto dry land.
Unfortunately for us, dry land was a lot tougher. We had decided to make Spikey (and his land-based successor, the Stegojumper) a carnivore, and the game would not allow us to backtrack from that fundamental decision. As time wore on, species that were sufficiently weaker than Steggy (and thus suitable prey) became thin on the ground, forcing us to roam farther and farther afield for food, and for potential allies. Sometimes, Steggy got killed, and when he got killed he lost critical advances. All too soon, Steggy was too primitive to impress the bigger, more sophisticated species, which made killing a new species a real crapshoot.
At that point (after about a couple of hours) our friends kicked us out to get some rest, but that was fine by me, because I'd seen enough to realize that, though it was fun, I'm unlikely to become addicted to Spore. The graphics are indeed as wonderful as everyone describes (particularly as each species is generated on the fly by the graphics engine) and the evolutionary process mostly convincing. (Though it was annoying that the coloration of a species doesn't seem to have any evolutionary consequences in the game. Sigh.) The build area, where you get to add new features to your evolving species as you acquire sufficient DNA points, was well done and easy to use.
No, my problem was moving Steggy around the landscape. Not the navigation--the inset map the game provides for you was simple enough to use. On the other hand, Steggy had no brakes, when I ran him; he would miss targets by the equivalent of many yards, and I found turning him around surprisingly unintuitive. I also screwed up camera angle changes, often ending up with a viewpoint that spun uselessly around and around above Steggy's eye level. Though I imagine I would find the process became easier with time, the combination of wrestling with the movement interface and getting killed a lot made me happy to stop.
Though I would like to try it at least once more, with a herbivore. There was an awful lot of fruit on Javin....