Spore, the next saga from the brilliant mind of Will Wright, covers the evolution of life from its single cell infancy to the invariable complexities of running a space faring civilization. It's a grand concept of a game that represents an expansive milestone from Wright's running of a city (SimCity), people (Sims) to now Spore. When I first played Spore: Origins, I prepared myself to take hold of something amazing. When I finished Spore: Origins, I said to myself, "Really, is that all there is to the game?" Though long in development with countless tomes written about the concept, I deliberately avoided it to be surprised with Wright's new creation. So when I had a dinner with my editor in chief about it, he quipped that the game I described in Spore is only the first part of the full PC and console game. So that's why it was subtitled Origins!
Spore begins with a lengthy video describing the origins of the chemicals that created life. This isn't Sarah Palin's version of the origins of life but creationism dogma out of the way, Spore then jumps to the game. Basically you take charge of a one eyed cell who must chew up smaller creatures for their DNA. Once you get to a requisite amount of DNA, you move on to the next level. Of course, in the primordial ooze that you find yourself in, there are plenty of hostile creatures that you'll have to flee from. As you progress from stage to stage, the DNA you collect will enable you to augment offensive or defensive attributes to your creature. For example, you can add hooks to attack your enemies. Spore lets you choose a balance between a behemoth bully of creature or you can be one of those small elusive types. It's really up to you.
The evolution screen is pretty easy to use. You can customize your creature with in game colors and patterns or use a photo from your iPod/iPhone. Dragging the creature's profile size around lets you choose between a fat & wide creature from a short & narrow one. Once you finish customizing your creature, it's back to the primordial pond where you need to collect more DNA. You control the creature with the tilt of the iPod/iPhone in a certain direction. This makes the controls simple and elegant. You can control the tilt angle to adjust to whether you're sitting, lying or standing.
The cell part of the game is a small part of the overall Spore package in the full PC or console game. Although the graphics look original and the audio is the full package, I thought there were some rough edges in Spore. For example, when videos play and you touch the screen, rewind and fast forward controls appear. The initial load times can be lengthy and I had it crash on me once.
Ultimately, Origins is not very deep and the community aspect of the game is not very engaging and doesn't come close to the features offered in the PC version of the game. Those expecting the next coming of The Sims will be disappointed. However, on the balance, Spore: Origins is a good casual game. In that department, it is spot on - just don't have any higher expectations than that.