The third wheel of the downloadable bandwagon
It seems that in order to revert the bad image space as been given in the recent months thanks to Dead Space 2 and Mass Effect 2, EA has set out to make the cutesiest, jumpiest, most simple platformer they could that only just about dodges a lawsuit with Ratchet & Clank. Enter Spare Parts, a sweetly innocent collect-’em-up about space wide adventures that has little ambition to reach any stars.
During travels throughout the solar system, an advanced spaceship controlled by a gentleman AI known as Conrad lies stranded in the middle of a desolate and unheard of planet. Being as subtle as a 200 foot lumbering rod of debris sticking out of a planet can be, it’s soon discovered by two likewise stranded robots named Mar-t and Chip. Chased down by Lord Krung and the Krofax, lords of planet destruction and the strange odours arising from its environment, both parties are keen to fix the ship and escape quickly, and so the robots set out on a journey to collect the necessary ship parts scattered across the far reaches of the world.
A CBeebies Metroid in the making, Spare Parts is a side scrolling platformer which relies heavily on hoarding gadgets and vehicle parts in a bid to leave the planet and tear through levels as a pimped up mega machine. There are five gadgets on offer throughout the adventure that can help with both past and future events. Rocket boots can glide you around areas and magnet boots can help climb up walls. All these utensils help out with the quest to escape and provide multiple possibilities for environmental puzzles. Unfortunately, another piece of kit can scan any blockages in the environment and give you an instant solution with no penalty.
These gadgets can also help out in combat, though the fiddly controls when cycling through in the midst of battle are generally more trouble than they’re worth. The upgrades do very little to help you out when faced against enemies, so fighting is scaled down to simply thwacking the square button until the area is clear. Such repetitive tactics seem fitting when faced against such repetitive enemies. Though different in design and with various ways of approaching a fight, no opponents require much smarts to outwit and once their flailing limbs have stopped, a basic thwacking is all that’s required. After a few hours, the gameplay endangers the whole title, leaving it to be unimaginative and boring, so thank God for the aesthetics to swoop in and make the journey enjoyable.
Spare Parts seems like a game that any kid can play with their parent
Despite its futuristic and tech-centric setting, the planet the mechanical clan are stranded on is strangely ancient in design. The robots you take the form of are all cute yet awesome in design, drawing aspects of manga, steampunk and even an old coupé as forms of design. The planet, however, seems to take on the form of the Aztec zone in The Crystal Maze. Gunk coated caves, desert topped cliff sides and snowy wonderlands all point to a rather environmentally challenged world, but all are clear cut in design and exuberantly coloured that makes each level great to look at.
The silent protagonists have the looks to come over cool and charming, yet it’s the etiquette fuelled Conrad that steals the show. Voiced by funny super-geek Simon Pegg, Conrad has that certain imperialistic butler charm that HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey harbours, without trying to kill everything on the ship. Though nothing more than a cuboid face with a cyber tache, he’s perfectly characterised by innocent one-liners, educated caution and entertaining anecdotes with sly giggle worthy endings. His time to shine is always torn away however, and there’s less contact with the character than you actually would like. It’s amazing how most gaming allies will never shut up with their pesky voices, yet when one comes along where you actually value each word they say, they’re shoved in the back seat.
Though this failure to exploit a positive to its fullest is disappointing, it fits in entirely with the rest of Spare Parts. The inability to build upon its fun and simplistic mechanics leaves what could have been a fantastic little downloadable title, yet leaves it somewhat dwindling on content. The levels are great to look at, yet are incredibly short. The collectables are great for forcing you off the beaten path, but there’s barely any reward and very little incentive in doing so. Several gadgets are fun to use, yet almost pointless with tons of hints and barely any effect on fighting.
With its simplistic gameplay, Pixar like production and co-op based platforming, Spare Parts seems like a game that any kid can play with their parent. The planet is a joy to explore, yet it’s a shame the same amount of imagination couldn’t have been exhibited in other aspects of the game. For a younger audience, it’s an enjoyable journey through a quirky and occasionally funny land, yet those without children won’t be rapidly searching online lobbies for an online partner to dice through the game with any time soon.
The Bad: Very short lifespan, Linear adventure with basic obstacles to overcome, Little incentive to return and grab all the collectables on offer