Spore review

  • Gorgeous game world
  • Extremely enjoyable audio
  • Charming as all get-out
  • Rudimentary gameplay
  • Lack of direction
  • Where's the autosave?


Are you still reading, Will, or have you grown tired of my complaints and decided to spend a few entertaining minutes with the old Russian space-shuttle console in your office? I can dig that—I’d spin those dials every day, too—but just so you know, I’m done with the complaining, because there’s so very much to enjoy in Spore. Like the fact that it’s such a sensually pleasing game. The “undersea” setting in Cell phase is vibrant with primary colors and lively sounds. In Creature phase, animals run through lush jungle environments and leap in the waves offshore. Spaceships buzz your little enclave in Tribe phase, just like you’ll buzz other tribes in the Space phase. And of course, there’s the constant discovery of astounding-looking new creatures, from walking flower-pots to a head-on-legs that’s apparently modeled after your very own (head, I mean—not legs). It’s all very alive and random-feeling, making for a game world that’s full and stimulating. And the audio is tops—I thoroughly enjoyed the music throughout, and I killed a good 45 minutes creating my tribe’s anthem in the surprisingly robust Anthem creator tucked away in the Civilization phase.

Above: The Anthem creator is cheaper than a drum set and less likely to piss off the neighbors

I’m also pretty sure that you’re working in a building full of comedians over there at Maxis, because Spore is funny—not trying-too-hard funny, but actually funny, in subtle ways. When your single-celled creature swims past eerily huge enemies in Cell phase, your microscopic predators are rendered with all the size and menace of Godzilla. There’s the sassy lounge music and hubba-hubba dance that goes down when you mate in the Creature phase. The first time I saw my Tribe do the Mexican hat dance around their fire, I went bananas (and then made them do it again, like 10 times in a row). When I zoomed in on cities in the Civilization phase, I found citizens engaging in activities that made sense depending on their cultural traits—the military Tastykakes city was full of creatures executing little armed services drills. Even the ways other people’s creations are integrated gave me regular laughs—my biggest ally in most of the Space phase was the Box on Legs empire, and in that same phase, the dialogue trees and sing-song cadence of other aliens are actually laugh-out-loud funny. Ask the PC Gamer staff—I’ve been imitating it for them nonstop, and I think they love it!

(Please don’t actually ask them if they love it.)

In fact, the Space phase is my favorite part of Spore, probably because it’s where I finally experienced the “oh, wow” reaction to its scope that I’d been waiting for since I first saw you demonstrate its Powers of Ten–like construction—beginning so very small, then pulling back to reveal something larger, and then again and again and again—a few years ago. I couldn’t believe that every dot blinking in the galaxy represented explorable star systems of planets playing home to flora, fauna, civilizations, and collectible items—and that at any time, I could decide which, if any, of those things to pursue. On my first play-through, I focused on collecting rare items that I could sell (and earn achievements for finding) and planet-sculpting tools. Then I decided to re-focus on expanding my empire by allying with other civilizations (I wasn’t feeling like a conqueror at the time) and planting new colonies. Then I started a new game and pursued it with the single-minded goal of reaching the center of the galaxy.

I know that the center-of-the-galaxy trip is actually Spore’s one story line, complete with an endgame, but I absolutely love the fact that playing it is no more or less a legitimate way of spending your time in Spore than doing any of the other things I was doing. Whether you’re playing “the game” from start to finish or just noodling around in the Cell phase, you’re still getting something great out of it. That freedom—to play as you wish without penalty—may be Spore’s most significant strong suit, and it’ll probably be the reason I keep playing it in spite of its repetitive aspects. The depth of the achievement system doesn’t hurt, either: I can tell there’s a lot of incentive there to try out different ways of playing (See how many planets you can visit!

See how many alliances you can form! See how many creatures you can build!) and win badges for doing so. And I noticed that even the achievements have achievements—as you play, you can unlock new lists of stuff to unlock.

That’s very meta, Will.

More Info

Release date: Sep 07 2008 - DS (US)
Available Platforms: PC, Xbox, PSP, DS, PS2, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
Genre: Strategy
Published by: EA GAMES, Electronic Arts
Developed by: Maxis
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Animated Blood, Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending


  • Muddawg90210 - April 29, 2014 4:50 p.m.

    Where is the PS3 version
  • wulibo - February 24, 2011 4:20 a.m.

    still my favorite game of all time, despite how bad the Mac version works.
  • coratican45 - May 12, 2010 10:17 p.m.

    Also, keep in mind that, although space stage is a little boring at first, once you get more into the game, it gets more intriguing, although it does take awhile.
  • coratican45 - May 12, 2010 10:12 p.m.

    You know, Space stage is actually pretty hard. And the game does put more emphasis on creativity. I think it's worth it.
  • narutofreak1 - December 17, 2009 11:12 p.m.

    im thinking about getting this game... yes im definitly getting this game.
  • Kingpin - October 31, 2008 2:40 p.m.

    I bought this game, and its really not all that great
  • RawOysters - October 29, 2008 3:57 a.m.

    I was very disappointed in this game. The heavy handed DRM aside, it was very simplistic and somewhat childish. I expected a much more scientific based game that would be a challenge. Instead I got a kids game that was boring as hell. Felt like I wasted $50. Would not ever consider wasting money on an expansion. Gave it to my 10 year old nephew.
  • Supernose - October 15, 2008 8:39 a.m.

    Looks like a good game, I just wish I had been told that Online Activation Required before my wife bought it for my birthday and sent it to me while I'm Deployed. Now I've stare at it and wait another month to play it.
  • hostile17 - September 25, 2008 7:18 p.m.

    I read this review in PC Gamer and was not surprised that they have already dropped their short lived "DRM Warning" labels. I am sure EA is a huge advertiser with them, and I notice they had some exclusive Dragon Age material in this month's issue. As evidenced by the review bombing at Amazon, gamers take this seriously, it is sad that PC Gamer feels they have to not upset their advertisers. I won't be renewing my subscription next time around, the net has more up to date info any way.
  • infinite doo - September 14, 2008 8:26 p.m.

    I played this game a crapton since it came out and all the way through it is awesome. However, you have to play your strengths; if youre a carnivore, be EVIL or else everyone will destroy you, If youre social, be NICE or everyone will pwn your weak creature; and if you try do do omnivore and don't immediately get owned youre better than me because I tried to do it but it labeled me as carnivore in creature stage, then social in tribe, so i got stuck with a religious society (NOT my style) and then ecologist in space. Also, make sure you save A LOT because the game will NEVER save for you, so if you die or royally screw up an alliance (don't ever go to war if you can help it until you have upgraded all the weapons to lvl 2) then youre just screwed. I had to replay 5 hours of gameplay because I forgot to save and decided to do so just after an assault on an enemy planet. however there were so many ships my comp pulled me out of the game, and when I put my cursor over the top left of my screen I got the spore cursor even though all I could see was my desktop, and the game was paused so they didnt kill me, but there was no way to switch back from the desktop to spore and I had to turn off my comp to fix it. and that was just after I had gotten all the lvl 2 weps and lvl 4 health =(
  • Yo2252 - September 12, 2008 10:05 p.m.

    I hope like hell this game works on mac.
  • djsizzlefresh - September 12, 2008 8:01 p.m.

    Spore is PIMPIN
  • KING_RUBE - September 11, 2008 1:18 p.m.

    I bought the game yesterday - here's my quick thoughts. At first i thought it was quite short because i gt to the space stage within a day (apparent last stage in game) only to find out that what took me a day to do on one planet i would have to do to a whole universe to even think about completing the game. its actually an endless game i feel that it mite just beat the sims in the best game of all time, its got way to much potential not to, it doesn't get boring like the sims does. That's why no body is going to see me for a very long time i will be in me room with my fridge TV and mac book with spore burning through the driver. 5 ***** stars - defiantly a very impressive game. K.R.
  • lordkemo - September 9, 2008 6:55 p.m.

    Tyler, Thanks for the reply. PC Gamer has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I am wondering though if there was a reason that the extremely restrictive DRM was not put into the review? Do you guys consider it to not be part of the game? I'm not accusing, just wondering.
  • lordkemo - September 9, 2008 12:57 p.m.

    Please review every part of the game. I have read on many forums and websites about how EA will, as of now, only allow 3 installs of this game total, unless you call them to get permission. Don't you think this is an important part of the game? I mean your computer gamers, don't you have to uninstall and reinstall games all the time. How did this little fact get missed? You say in your review that you can hardly find anything wrong with the game. I though you guys were going to release information about games that contain DRM? I hope this was more of an honest mistake as opposed to not wanting to lose those EA dollars.
  • Crossfire66 - September 6, 2008 12:30 a.m.

    Spore actually looks so fun that it might be the first "real" PC game i buy.
  • Kyon - September 5, 2008 11:45 p.m.

    Ah, so it's actually out, then? Thought this day would never come. I wonder if the DS version's as good.
  • georgeguy - September 5, 2008 10:45 p.m.

    WHERES the AUTO SAVE?? lol nice review awsome game but my comp sucks so got to pray for a ps3 version
  • Crossleft501 - September 5, 2008 7:30 p.m.

    been waitin on this game for the last 4 years and looks like it was worth it for the most part
  • Wizrai - September 5, 2008 7 p.m.

    Very long, but very objective. Love it.

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