Pros: Extremely varied gameplay.
Cons: Has trouble sustaining momentum.
Do I like Spore Hero? It’s a difficult question to answer. Certainly I found it interesting. At times I found myself unable to stop playing, engaged by a constant stream of new things to do and new skills that opened up new areas of the game. Beset by a slew of pre-Christmas Wii titles, I chose Hero as the most intriguing of the bunch. And yet, I am not completely certain whether I actually like the game.
The Premise: A Helpful Creature with Replaceable Parts
Hero is based on the PC game Spore. While Spore was a hugely elaborate game spanning multiple styles of gameplay in which the player created a species and evolves them into an intergalactic force, Hero is a less ambitious title that uses little bits of an early section of the original as the foundation for an action adventure game with role playing elements.
The most Spore-like aspect of this game is the ability to continually reform your avatar. As you progress through the game you will find various parts – new eyes, tails, wings, fins, claws – that you can use to improve your creature. In Spore this was a mechanism for evolution, but in Hero you’re simply able to add and subtract parts as though your creature were a living Mr. Potato Head.
In the game, your avatar is a primitive creature who is continually asked by everyone he meets for help. This is kind of weird if you think about it: how often in real life do people ask random strangers to altruistically go on perilous quests, and how often are such requests accepted? Still, it is a videogame convention that we are all used to.
Gameplay: Everything but the Kitchen Sink
Gameplay is a mix of platforming, puzzle-solving, exploration and combat and the aforementioned role playing. The game is fairly non-linear; you receive various quests from various creatures and fulfill these as you see fit. There is a skeletal story involving red crystals that have fallen from the sky and driven creatures to a dangerous frenzy, but this is simply a way to structure quests.
The main goal of the game is simply to find items that will allow you to explore more of the game world and strengthen yourself for combat. Some items can be dug up while others will be awarded for completing quests. Most items are parts for your avatar. Some give you greater strength or new abilities, but I found most of the most powerful parts for my creature fairly early in the game, after which I kept digging up parts I had no use for
The game has a solid variety of gameplay elements. There are various mini-games, such as running up a hill avoiding boulders or trying to match another creature’s dance via a simple rhythm game. There are fairly elaborate quests that require you to find a way to move quickly through an area using your various abilities and knowledge of the terrain. There are one-on-one fights in which you must use the combat skills that come with your added-on parts.
Taken individually, none of these elements is that impressive. The various mini-games and quests are fairly standard in presentation, and combat is simple and not especially difficult. But taken as a whole they serve to create a sense of varied, occasionally inventive gameplay.
Appeal: Always Something to Do
The great strength of Hero is the large, interesting world players are given to explore. While I was never incredibly excited while playing Hero, I felt compelled to keep going because there was always something – a new ability, a new area, a new quest, a new solution – just around the corner. This time of year I have a lot of games to look at, so just being a game that I come back to after an initial try-out is a recommendation.
Yet, while I was engaged by Hero, I was rarely enthused by it. It is an interesting game, but its episodic nature, low level of difficulty and lack of an interesting story or unusual gameplay kept it from feeling like a must-play title. Towards the end I found my attention flagging, and once I had reached story’s end I had no interest in going back and playing the optional quests I had bypassed.
Conclusion: Fun for a While
Plotted on a chart, my interest in Hero would follow a bell-shaped curve. When I began the game I thought it seemed mildly interesting, but as I delved deeper into it I became increasingly drawn in, reaching a point around the middle where I considered it a pretty cool game. Then my interest slacked as I began to feel the game was simply not offering me anything especially new.
Somewhere in the middle, I really liked Hero, and I never disliked it, so on balance I suppose I have to say that yes, I liked Spore Hero. But I can say with a far greater degree of certainty that I never quite loved it.