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Platform(s): Nintendo DS
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Buena Vista Games
Developer: Jupiter Corporation


NDS Review - 'Spectrobes'

by Rusty Bailey on March 31, 2007 @ 3:54 a.m. PDT

Spectrobes introduces two junior Interplanetary Patrol officers named Rallen and Jeena who learn of strange, prehistoric creatures called Spectrobes that possess special powers. These Spectrobes hold the key to defeating a vicious and merciless force, known only as the Krawl, that threatens to destroy the galaxy. The two heroes embark on a mission to save their galaxy – to do so they must excavate, awaken, train and collect all the Spectrobes they can and battle to defeat the Krawl.

Genre: RPG
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Developer: Jupiter Corporation
Release Date: March 6, 2007

It was claimed to be Disney's Pokémon killer. There were to be creatures abound for the collecting and battles galore. Oh, and it was supposed to be fun, too.... Well it seems that collecting monsters is really the only similarity here between Pokémon and the new kid on the block, Spectrobes. Of course, being entirely unique isn't always a good thing.

Your story begins as you are sent on a mission to investigate an unknown object that landed on some planet. When you arrive there, you discover a man named Aldous, who claims that an alien race known as the Krawl are invading, and the only way to defeat them is to use the ancient creatures known as Spectrobes. While the Spectrobes may currently lie dormant in their fossils, Aldous knows how to awaken the beasts.

So you won't be throwing Spectroballs and catching 'em all. No, in this game, you must tap, scratch, and dig using the stylus to uncover materials, cubes, or fossils. A child Spectrobe follows you around and by pressing the R button, it searches for objects buried underground. If it locates something, you tap the screen to enter an excavation mode, and you have different drill bits and tools at your disposal, all in an effort to successfully recover this object. In fact, it is even possible to break the material if you damage it too much. I will say this now: The excavating of materials gets old quick. Much of the game is spent searching for objects and carefully rubbing the screen to dig them up. While it seems like a good original idea, it really slows down the pace of the game.

Once you've excavated a fossil, you take it to the lab system on your ship, where you must use the DS' microphone to awaken the Spectrobe. By blowing or talking into the mic, you have to make a noise loud enough on the gauge for three seconds. This is extremely odd when people are watching, but it must be endured for the cause — Krawls are going to devour the galaxy!

After you've awakened a fossil, you can either put it in an incubator or in your battle squad. Unfortunately, placing a Spectrobe in an incubator is the only way for it to evolve. Some simply evolve by being in there a certain amount of time, while others have to be a specific level. Nevertheless, the only way a Spectrobe can participate in battle is if it has evolved from a child to an adult. Also, while it is in the incubator, you can feed it the minerals you dug up in order to increase its stats. Once again, this is an interesting concept, but I feel that the whole incubation process is unnecessary because it makes an arduous task of collecting and evolving, so you eventually won't feel like it is worth completing.

So you've awakened a couple Spectrobes and you want to kick some Krawl butt. When you are in the field, you will see a tornado-like object, and when your character touches it, you will engage in battle. The battles are set up in real-time fashion, with your character in the middle and a Spectrobe flanking him on both sides. The battling is extremely simple: The L button makes the left Spectrobe attack, and the R button makes the right one attack. You can also hold the A button to charge a special combo attack. However, the combat is awkward as the character slides around as if there is no friction, and there is no way to defend yourself. Almost every battle is simply a hit-and-run.

In addition to picking up minerals and fossils, you will also excavate cubes, which provide a variety of benefits, from giving you helpful tips to unlocking wireless multiplayer mode.

In the multiplayer mode, you can trade Spectrobes, fossils, and custom parts, or you can engage in battle with a friend. Sadly, you cannot battle online; instead, Wi-Fi is used to download Spectrobes, custom parts, or video. You receive download points every Friday, and once you've saved up enough points, you can go online to download items. You can also use Wi-Fi to upload your high scores to the Spectrobes web site. These are neat features, but it is a disappointment that you can't trade or even battle online.

If you can bear the slow pace, Spectrobes has a lot to offer. There are tons are Spectrobes to collect and evolve, and countless cubes to discover. Also, each game comes with a different set of physical cards to collect; you can place each upon the touch-screen and tap the holes to unlock new items. Since each set of cards is different, you can try to find friends who play Spectrobes and enter all of them into your game, but regrettably, for many players, the fun factor just won't be high enough to garner enough interest.

When you first boot up the game, the graphics are thoroughly impressive. A cut scene is shown with a Spectrobe evolving, and you get the impression that the whole game is going to look great. Once you start playing, however, you're greeted with blocky, indistinguishable creatures that are starkly different from the intro scene. Additionally, the terrain is bland and makes searching for fossils incredibly dull.

As odd as it sounds (no pun intended), a lot of the music seems like it could've been on one of the earlier NES-era Disney games. It also sounds outdated and too generic to be remembered, and you certainly won't be humming it later.

It is quite obvious that kids love collecting their own monsters. Pokémon has been a hit over the years with that concept, but few have been able to replicate it. Spectrobes seems to fall short because of its monotonous method of collecting and the poorly designed battle system. Some may find a place in their hearts for Spectrobes, but with Pokémon Diamond/Pearl on the horizon, patience can be a virtue.

Score: 6.0/10

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