A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this game features some mild violence and blood, specifically pertaining to fighting against other creatures. The violence is shown thorough cartoonish graphics which lack of any real detail. You can be tasked with killing enough of another species as to cause genocide. The game also lets you "mate" with others but you only see the two swooning together with tasteful floating hearts. Consequences of your actions is a big part of the gameplay, so that aggressive behavior does have a cost. The online aspect of this game allows you to send the creatures you create into the Spore universe to help populate the game for others playing it and vice versa. While the Spore universe is monitored, parents worried about the creativity of others when making creatures that might appear to be sexual or offensive (know as "Sporn") can opt to turn off the online aspects. This is a game in which you are in control of a species' evolution.
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What's it about?
For a game that's seven years in the making and more than a year past its planned launch, a lot is riding on SPORE, the latest simulation from celebrated game designer Will Wright. Spore might best be described as an evolution simulation. Your goal is to create a unique species from scratch, and, through careful nurturing, interaction with other life forms, and the development of new technologies, you'll advance through the five main stages, each of which plays out almost as a separate game altogether.
In the Cell Stage, for example, you control a teeny microorganism by navigating through a primordial pond and consuming other cells in a primal survival of the fittest. You'll eventually grow larger, sprout legs and lungs, and venture out onto dry land for the Creature Stage. Now you must explore your environment, hunt for food (you choose whether your creature is a carnivore or herbivore), collect new body parts and other items (used to design a faster or stronger being) and mate with other critters (don't worry, no "act" is seen, other than two beings swooning underneath floating pink hearts). This stage might prove difficult for newbies because even though you follow the onscreen instructions carefully when greeting new species, you can fail to impress other tribes by dancing or singing. Without these alliances, it can take you a while to reach the next stage by hunting alone. The next stages -- Tribal, Civilization, and Space -- are reminiscent of real-time strategy games, where you're collect resources, explore different cultures, and use diplomacy or war to reach your goals.
Is it any good?
While not for everyone because of its geeky bioanthropological premise, and it certainly can get challenging despite a clean interface and many helpful tips and hints, EA's Spore is an ingenious concept delivered in near flawless execution. Not only is it hands-down the best computer game of the year so far, but is also one of the deepest and most gratifying titles to grace your monitor in a decade. If only Darwin was alive to see this.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Spore is both a game and a simulation designed to mirror real life, human interaction, and our evolutionary course. Why did you decide to design your creature as you did? If you played as a carnivore, will you go back in a see what it is like to be an herbivore? Did you find that you liked being aggressive or did you spend you time trying to build alliances? What did you think of the collaborative nature of the Sporepedia? Have you seen other creatures that fascinated you?
- Platforms: Mac, Windows
- Subjects: Science: biology, ecosystems and the environment, life cycle
- Skills: Tech Skills: digital creation
Self-Direction: achieving goals
Thinking & Reasoning: decision-making, strategy
Creativity: making new creations
- Price: $49.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Electronic Arts
- Release date: September 7, 2008
- Genre: Simulation
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Animated Blood
- Last updated: October 15, 2019
For kids who love simulation games
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.