Third-person action games are a dime a dozen on console machines. They’re mostly formulaic exercises involving old tricks like power-ups, leaping across platforms and jumping over obstacles. Most of the charm actually comes from the visuals and of course, the protagonist. Spawn benefits from the fact ZioSoft has rights to the actual comic character. The second part of the equation is already fulfilled.
Everything about Spawn is draped in classic comic book motif. The opening menus are a testament to that. Apart from the action sequences, the story is played out in comic book format, although it lacks the mature wit of something like Max Payne. In its use of colors, it’s definitely erring towards the comic book style.
Inside the game Spawn is played in the classic behind the back look; pioneered by Eidos’ Tomb Raider (which, incidentally, is also on the Pocket PC). The landscape may all be composed of 3D but the animated characters inside are all 2D sprites. Still, the framerate isn’t significantly faster than in Tomb Raider and it suffers in the same areas too, if not more so.
What is disconcerting about the game is not that it harbors trivial jumping puzzles and dozens of forgettable enemies. Mind you, it has all of that and then some. But no, Spawn executes badly because of a frustratingly unresponsive camera system. Sluggish is the word that comes to mind. Since Spawn is configured to strafe left and right, you’ll have to use the stylus to change the camera and change direction. Since facing in the enemy’s direction is also the way you’ll be landing blows opponents, you can already foresee the detrimental effects facing multiple opponents will give you.
It doesn’t help that Spawn is all about beating up enemies either. Level design is woefully uninspired. Throw in some timed levels and some hapless civilians that need saving and that pretty much is Spawn’s foray on the Pocket PC. The developers try to mix it up by allowing you to grow your character. For example, if you start beating up stray dogs, cats or innocent civilians instead of helping them, your morality meter will go downwards. Conversely, if you kill a mouse, your moral goes up. I’m not sure how that works but I guess nobody ever consulted the mice’s feelings during the design process.
When you grow in skill, you also increase your skill power bar, which is used to execute combos and special attack moves. These moves aren’t terribly special but instead of pummeling your enemies to death, you get some eye candy to look at. The same goes for the various guns you can wield during the game. They don’t appear to change the combat dynamics too much.
If combat is not gratifying and combat is most if not all of this game, you can easily tell where this critique is moving off to. Spawn isn’t contributing to the revival. Since the revival of comics in the entertainment industry, particularly in movies and games, our expectations for comic book games have increased as well. There are no daring leaps and bounds in Spawn, though, besides the underperforming graphics engine, which has trouble handling clipping, particularly in urban environments. Coupled with bad music and forgettable sound effects, Spawn is one of those titles that we see on console machines a lot, with the exception that it will take close to ten megabytes of space on your Pocket PC. And when you take that measure into account, you’ll want to think twice about unleashing this hell spawn on your PDA.
[04/10] Program Size
[10/15] Learning Curve