Spore Galactic Adventures

Spore Galactic Adventures

From the beginning of its legendary hype cycle, Spore was intended to be a phenomenon like The Sims, which continues to resonate because it offers an odd, compelling perspective on the monotony of human life. Yet Spore, with its disjointed stages and unconvincing jumble of evolution and creationism, always seemed determined to avoid offering any perspective at all. Reflecting a late realization that Spore ought to mean something, Spore Galactic Adventures quixotically attempts to graft a grand idea onto the game after the fact.

Galactic Adventures bypasses the original cell-to-civilization concept and instead worships at the altar of user-created gameplay. The expansion plugs into Spore’s space stage and lets you beam down to planets for ground missions. (Space exploration used to be a shipbound affair.) Maxis supplies a batch of pre-made quests and an elaborate, intuitive set of quest-creation tools. Beyond the usual terraforming gizmos, the level editor places a novel emphasis on narrative building blocks, known as “acts,” which allow the world and characters to respond to changes in the story.

But the game’s vision of boundless creativity is overshadowed by the hollowness of the Spore universe. Once the veneer of cuteness wears off, the game’s lack of heart shows through. The provided missions are a series of point-A-to-point-B chores. Free, downloadable quests created by the Robot Chicken writing staff sound like a great idea on paper, but in practice, the listless results show that even professional writers struggle to make Galactic Adventures sing.

As for the amateurs, so far, they seem content to create Mario clones and ultra-easy quests that help fellow players cheat through a new, tedious leveling system. Like any game that embraces user creations, it’s possible that industrious players will make Galactic Adventures better with time. It’s just hard to imagine why they would.

Beyond the game: The fitful launch of LittleBigPlanet taught the industry a few lessons about how to build search engines for user-generated levels, lessons that the Sporepedia boldly ignores.

Worth playing for: The “How A Bill Becomes A Law” mission conjures up some Schoolhouse Rock! charm.

Frustration sets in when: Your attempts to play are confused by an arcane brew of user accounts and DRM.

Final judgment: The galaxy is mostly empty. So is Galactic Adventures.