Why is archaeology always a means to an end, rather than an activity in its own right? In games and movies it’s either a threadbare pretext for one of Indiana Jones’ whip-cracking adventures, or, in Spectrobes’ case, a process for finding new monsters with which to kill other monsters. What’s wrong with unearthing and tidying fossils for the sake of it?
You’re wrong: it wouldn’t be boring. The Trauma Center-like excavation minigame in Spectrobes: Origins is easily our favorite part, and it’s the sort of substantial, almost self-contained thing we’d like to see appear as WiiWare. It’s similar to the method used in the DS Spectrobes title, but you’re given more tools and fully 3D rocks to break apart. And what do you do with your new-found fossil? Well, you revive it and take it into battle.
From the art style to the interface, this is clearly (and heavily) inspired by Phantasy Star Online. But rather than running around the game’s large environments with a gang of other humanoids, you’re running around with one cuteish Spectrobe at a time. Ordering the little fella around can be a hassle using the imprecise motion gestures but, helpfully, another player can leap in to help you out. Meanwhile, Player 1 controls two irritating space-kids, Rallen and Jeena, on their quest to destroy some aliens or something.
We could count the number of Wii RPGs on one bloody stump, so this isn’t really beset by competition, but that doesn’t excuse the tedious nature of your involvement with the game. Ignoring, for a moment, the fun excavation and RPG micromanagement, your role is basically pressing A to hit stuff, then, when a meter is full, crossing your arms to charge a Spectrobe attack. Doing the arms thing made us feel like a character from Dragon Ball Z – and we mean that in a good way – but that token gesture only succeeds in providing slight respite from your primary purpose, which, of course, is pressing A.
The mere act of appearing on the Wii in a fully fledged RPG has done a lot to shake off Spectrobes’ debt to Pokemon – and the enhanced excavation elements haven’t hurt either – but being less of a rip-off doesn’t make this any more fun. Although it’s a solid attempt to break into the overcrowded creature-collection market, it’s still one giant leap behind the undisputed, Pikachu-shaped king. Long live Pokemon…
Aug 25, 2009