Platforming fun with robots.
Maybe it is me, but there just doesn’t seem to be as many platforming games released now as there used to be. Platform games used to be the most popular genre, but the genre seems to have lost favour in recent years. That being said, there are still a few good platformers popping up on the various consoles, albeit mostly on the Wii. Spare Parts is bucking this trend by offering some downloadable platform action on PSN and XBLA.
Made primarily for the younger gamers out there, Spare Parts from EA follows the adventures of two robots – Mar-T and Chip, as they scour a planet in search of the spare parts needed to repair their space ship. The voice of the ship’s computer, which acts as the players guide through the game, offering objectives and such, is provided by the inimitable Simon Pegg and is possibly the highlight of the game. That doesn’t bode well, does it?
The very simple task at hand is to collect certain pieces required for the ship. Once enough pieces have been collected, the player is free to progress to the next level. To aid in this collecting, the player will have access to, and unlock, various upgrades that allow the player to access certain areas and obtain the parts hidden within. These upgrades come in the form of such robotic themed items as Power Arms and Rocket Boots. Perhaps the most useful of the gadgets is the X-ray Vision, which allows the player to scan the nearby area and deduce which of the other gadgets are needed. It is perhaps a little revealing that the developers needed to include a tool that explains what the player needs to do, but more on that later.
The platforming side of the gameplay is exactly as you would expect, with the player leaping from rocky outcrops to stone pillars and such. Whilst this is all run of the mill stuff, the level design and maybe a slight lack of precision can lead to the occasional miscalculated leap, resulting in loss of life.
The other main aspect of gameplay in Spare Parts is the combat. The planet is inhabited by some particularly nasty aliens which the player will find themselves having to do battle with. The majority of this combat, against enemies that have a horrible habit of respawning a certain number of times, is mostly an exercise in button mashing. These enemies drop coins that can be used to purchase upgrades.
As mentioned earlier, the game does seem to suffer from a lack of direction. A number of times I found myself wondering what to do next. Using the X-ray vision certainly helps, revealing places where the other gadgets can be used, but even that is not always straight forward. The use of these gadgets requires standing in a very particular spot in order to get the required response and it can be very difficult to find that spot.
The game can be played both as single player or in a co-op mode in which both robots appear together on the same screen. Playing in co-op is fun and there are even rewards available for teaming up with another player. But there is not really anything within the game that makes playing co-op essential. In single player there is not even any AI controlled partner to accompany the player.
From a visual point of view, the game doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking. But the colours are bright, crisp and will certainly appeal to the younger audience at which the game is aimed. The audio within the game also does a good job, with the aforementioned voice of Simon Pegg being a highlight.
Spare Parts may not be the best example of the platforming genre, and certainly has a few issues. But, that being said, it does offer a certain amount of charm and will keep platforming fans going for a good six hours. Pick it up if you need your platform fix.