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If Spare Parts has been off your radar, don't worry. Until we played it last week, we'd barely taken any notice of the cutesy looking platformer either. But after just a short time playing the Lego Star Wars-style title last week, you can bet your android ass its charming co-op has caught our attention now.
Yup. If you’ve ever played any of Traveller’s Tales effortlessly cute and charming LEGO titles, you’ll no doubt feel instantly at home when you fire up Spare Parts. A platformer built around simple puzzle mechanics and thoughtful teamwork, EA’s game supports two player online co-op. Hell, it pretty much demands to be played in co-op.
Controlling a pair of robots called Chip and Mar-ty, it’s up to you and your co-op compadre to rebuild your spaceship by finding parts scattered throughout the game’s 16 levels, which can be accessed through a central space station (again, like LSW). While you’re searching for said parts, you’ll have to work in tandem to solve puzzles, battle enemies and make sweet robot lovin’. Admittedly, we might have made that last one up.
If you’re Johnny Loner without a friend in the world, you’ll be pleased to know you can play Spare Parts on your own. Of course, playing like this means only one robot will appear on screen, meaning you won’t be able to access all the areas that have been specifically designed for two players.
Cutely, the key to these sections is performing moves in synch. In one of the levels we played, we had to punch a switch just as our partner was making a jump to provide our buddy with a platform to land on. These (mostly platform-based) puzzles demand the little metal men to use their kick-ass powers. And it’s these mechanical moves which arguably elevate Chip and Mar-ty’s adventures above the yellow plastic galaxy far, far away.
Pah. Who wants a glowing laser stick when you can fly about the screen at anytime courtesy of some rocket boots? The mechanical men have a variety of powers mapped to the right stick, which can be brought up with a simple flick. It’s brilliantly immediate and you can switch through everything from strong arms to knock down walls, X-ray specs, to Ratchet-style magnetic shoes in the space of seconds. The animations as you switch between powers are also a treat to watch, as the little robots’ gears and other parts transform, rotate and whirr.
Forget about the chirpy colourful planets, hostile spider monkeys and giant space bugs the droid duo has to fight off. It’s all charming as hell, no doubt. But it’s the actions of the robots themselves which is the real draw. Seeing as both of them are mute like electricity-powered mimes, you’d think developer EA Bright Light would have a hard time getting its stars to convey emotions. Not so. Performing moves together on the D-pad will see the heroes perform games of rock paper scissors and impromptu breakdancing contests. It’s a small touch, sure. Still, it really helps get across the game’s sly, playful sense of humour.
While we love the silent lumps of LEGO in Traveller’s Tales games, we’d rather have our ear holes gently tickled by the Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz star. Pegg voices Conrad, the A.I. who helps Chip and Mar-ty throughout their quest. And everyone knows anything with Simon Pegg is automatically made 72% more awesome. Well, aside from Star Trek. Old Simon’s ‘Scotch’ accent in that was truly awful. <shudder>
Spare Parts looks like it could be a real sleeper hit. An inventive platformer with inventive co-op elements and a slick interface, it’s really taken us by surprise. The game will be released on XBLA and PSN for 800 MS Points/£7.99 this winter.
Nov 8, 2010