Spectrobes
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-03-31 Nintendo DS Action E (Everyone) Disney Interactive / Jupiter

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Finding and growing monsters to do battle with may not be an original concept for a handheld game, but Spectrobes presents it in a different and rather unique way.

In Spectrobes you play as Rallen, an officer of the Planetary Patrol. One day, Rallen and his partner Jeena receive a distress signal from a planet and find an escape pod with a scientist in cryogenic sleep inside. When he finally wakes up, they learn of an attack by some creatures known as the Krawl. The man also tells them about the Krawl's enemies, the Spectrobes, creatures long extinct but still dormant in the form of fossils.

Equipped with this new gadget called a Prizmod that allows him to battle alongside with two Spectrobes, Rallen sets out to find enough Spectrobes so he can have a chance at stopping the Krawl from destroying other planets. With the help of Jeena and Aldous' knowledge, what follows is a strange investigatory and archaeological adventure.

With a Spectrobe attached to his Prizmod, Rallen can use it to search the ground for minerals and fossils. You walk around and tap the Spectrobe to activate the scanning process. If something is near, the Spectrobe jumps around and you will see shining spots. Depending on the color of the glow, you can tell what's buried: yellow/orange is a fossil, blue is a mineral, glittery is a cube.

Your stylus becomes your digging kit, with drills of different sizes to excavate whatever you find. But you have to be careful not to break whatever it is you have found. There's a gauge that shows the damage done to the object and a stress gauge that shows the pressure of the tool on the object (keep it as low as possible). To dig out something, you must have uncovered 96% of the object. A scan helps you see the shape of what you are trying to dig (using the left or right trigger) and blowing on the microphone disperses little rock fragments. Every time you dig out something successfully, you get experience points and eventually, your excavation level goes up.

Fossils can be taken to the ship's lab to be awaken. The awakening process is quite funny, especially for other people who may be watching you at the time. You launch a fossil into the chamber and you must use your voice and keep the volume between the brackets or past the mark during three seconds. You must find a tone that works for your voice, but I actually found that you can do it just as well by blowing on the microphone.

From there, you can place your child Spectrobes in the incubator, where you can feed it minerals. Minerals come in different shapes and colors, and each has its own properties. Spectrobes will evolve to adult after a certain time in the incubator, or when their stats reach a certain level. This varies from Spectrobe to Spectrobe. Only after growing into adult can they turn into their evolved forms. There are four incubator rooms, each can hold two Spectrobes. Feed them and check back periodically to see if they can evolve (there will be a glitter above them). Tap the Spectrobe with the stylus and you will see it in a sort of cocoon. Tap the cocoon to reveal the evolved Spectrobe.

Now that we know what fossils and minerals do, lets talk about the cubes. Cubes are very special items that give your game bonus features. Think of it as a sort of unlockables, you will only have certain things in your game if you find the right cube for it. Some cubes allow you to attach custom parts to your Spectrobe, to evolve past adult form, to change the terrain in the incubator (thus matching the properties of the Spectrobes for faster evolution) and others add extra features such as DS Wireless Play. Any cubes you find, bring them to Aldous and he will identify it for you.

The wi-fi system will appear in the lab after you've handed the cube to Aldous. There are two features in the wi-fi system, download and upload. The Download feature lets you use points to "purchase" videos, Spectrobes, minerals and custom parts. The Upload feature lets you upload your Sequence Battle scores from the Great Black Holes on the different planets.

After all the complexity of digging, awakening, evolving and whatnot, you have a very simple yet awkward combat system. Your Prizmod can accommodate two adult Spectrobes that will fight with you, and four others that will offer support properties. While Rallen is for the most part useless to fight, the Spectrobes do their job at kicking some Krawl ass. You move with the D-pad and attack with the left and right triggers, depending on which Spectrobe you want to do the attack. You pretty much use Rallen to position the Spectrobes and face the way you want them to attack. This happens in real time, but unfortunately, you can only attack once the little meter is full. And you can only attack with one Spectrobe at a time. Unless there's a cube I haven't found yet that makes it all quicker and easier!

Graphically, the game is very well done. The environments are colorful, the character art is great and the Spectrobes and Krawl have very interesting monster designs. The sound is also excellent, particularly the soundtrack, and the dialogs are well-written and tell a good story.

Regardless of the combat dragging a bit, Disney has done very well treating us with a very engaging game. It's originally strange, there is a lot to do in it (which is great for the completist in all of us) and will keep anyone busy for quite a while, as long as they have the patience to excavate here and there evrey so often.

It's a title worthy of any game collection, if not for the game, for the sheer amount of content inside the box that seemed to be bursting at the seams with a huge manual and collectible excavation cards. But it's also the amount of in-game content that will make gamers either absolutely love it or hate it. I happen to love it.


Special thanks to Rannie Yoo, Eric Wein and Disney for providing a copy of this title.