Spore (PC)
512MB RAM for XP, 768 for Vista, 1GB for Mac OS X 10.5.3
4GB HDD Space
128MB video with pixel shader 2.0 support

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a planet with a meteor coming right for it. On this meteor was some primitive life form that you designed. When they collided, your life form landed in an ocean with other simple life forms. Some were neutral, others were hungry. Your primary objectives in the cell stage is to eat, collect DNA pieces, mate (using the collected DNA) and evolve. You can jump start the game from various stages, but I think it\'s the most fun to work your way up from a microbe to a space explorer.

Creature creating is pretty fun, and many people will be amused by that portion alone. You can download the creature creator or buy it on disc for $10. You can share creatures only with your buddies or share them with the world. Random creatures will be downloaded to your world to add some variety. If an inappropriate creature lands in your universe, you can report it to EA. I haven\'t seen any offensive creatures in my game but I have seen them on YouTube.

When it comes to creature making you just drag and drop the parts into place. You can stretch and rotate the parts once they are in place. Most of the parts are optional but a mouth is mandatory for eating. There are base sets of eyes, limbs, self defense/attacking mechanisms, and mouths to get you started. You have to find the rest by exploring your world. There\'s an expansion pack available that offers creepy and cute parts as well.

The parts you place on your creature determine it\'s abilities. The mouth determines herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, and singing capabilities. The feet influence speed and dancing abilities. Dancing, Singing and Charming help you make friends in the Creature phase. There are many other creatures out there and there\'s always bigger ones than you. Eventually you will have the ability to have allies with you to help you survive. Many creatures will be neutral towards you and you can decide to befriend or hunt them to extinction. Some creatures will dislike you from the start and you\'ll have to run away from or avoid them.

As you play, you will be given objectives to help you evolve and progress. Some of these goals include relocating to a new nest or hunting or befriending X number of a certain creature. All the while you will have to look for and collect pieces of DNA to improve your species. There\'s a gauge on the bottom of the screen and once you fill that up you can evolve to the next level. You don\'t HAVE to evolve; you can stay at a certain stage if you prefer, however, you cannot go back.

In the Tribal stage you progress by building up your totem pole. You get pieces of the totem by defeating or befriending other tribes. To befriend them you have to impress them by playing various instruments in order. You\'ll play various instruments as the game prompts you to and if your timing is off, it will not sound pretty. Fortunately, you can try multiple times to impress them. In this is era you can domesticate animals and you can assign specialties and abilities to members of your tribe.

Next comes the Civilization stage. In this stage you can build planes, tanks, boats, buildings and submarines. Money is made by harvesting and collecting spices. Your enemies will be creatures of your own race and you will have to dominate all of the cities to move on. The cities will have different abilities and tactics depending on their alignment (Military, Religious and Economic). As you absorb a city you can tap into their abilities.

Lastly there is the space age, the final frontier. Spice is still a major source of income and you want to colonize various planets offering different varieties and colors of spices. The universe is pretty big and there are many different empires to compete or ally with. The different alien races have unique personalities. Some are party animals, religious zealots, super serious, war mongers, or peaceful at all costs. You can befriend some empires by bribery or doing missions for them. You can establish trade routes and become allies. As an ally you can request a ship from them to aide you in your conquests.

Since you\'re fully evolved, your space progress is measured by how many badges/achievements you earn. There are many achievements to unlock. You will get recognized by allying with X number of empires, starting X number of wars & colonies, completing X number of trades, traveling to X number of star systems, etc. There are silly achievements too like discovering earth or the center of the universe. As you earn badges you will unlock new items to buy such as ship and weapon upgrades. Your title will change as well as the number of ally ships accompanying you.

Some of the missions will involve eliminating diseased creatures to prevent an epidemic from spreading. You will be called numerous times to defend your planets from invading spaceships that want to convert your cities or claim your planet as their own. There are also space pirates that will try and steal spice from you as well. Some of the missions you will get from other races will be to attack other races or disable their turrets. You may also be asked to do a planet survey or collect creature and plant specimens for evaluation or amusement.

There is a lot of fun to be had and you can easily spend several hours enjoying this game. I got to experience some frustration as well when I ran into a glitch that crashed my game when I tried to enter or leave certain planets. This is a known glitch that has affected many users. I hope future patches address this issue.

When it comes to graphics, Spore will not disappoint. As you can imagine, the creatures are incredibly detailed and you can change how colorful they are in the creature editor. The buildings and vehicles are finely detailed too. The creature animations are very cute and are fun to watch. You\'ll get to see lots of explosions when you take down spaceships and drop bombs on cities.

The sound effects are great too. I love the gibberish the various aliens speak and how unique they all sound. The background music is pleasant and fits well with various activities. For example, the mating scenes have cute romance music and you\'ll see the creatures dance together. (nothing more)

Given that the mating is tastefully done, this is a relatively clean game. Yes it\'s pretty pro-evolution but it\'s heavily watered down. This game is for entertainment and not a biology lesson. Though it does make me appreciate being on top of the food chain instead of on the bottom. When it comes to war mongering, there is no blood or gore. With that said, I think that this game is safe for kids.

I have spent many hours playing this game and it is very addicting. It\'s pretty light hearted and can be classified as a real time strategy game. It\'s pretty easy to maneuver around and had a small learning curve. My biggest complaint about the game is the stability. I truly hope they patch this game up some more, it needs more work. Other than that, I think many people will enjoy this title.

Game Play: 17/20
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 7/10
Stability: 2/5
Interface: 5/5
Appropriateness: 47/50
-3 for violence

Overall 86%

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Cheryl Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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