Disney Interactive is at it again with another offering of its Poke-wanna be, Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals. Needless to say, it’s hard to match wits with Pokemon. It’s a tried and true formula that will be around for as long as video games exist. So to come out with a similar product begs for comparison, and Spectrobes does not even come close to meeting those standards.
The story centers around Rallen, a space ace with a knack for digging up and controlling beings named spectrobes. You use these beings to combat the Krawl, your typical alien nemesis. The story is pretty plain and uninspired as you run around planet after planet trying to expel the bad guys.
Two things I noticed almost immediately upon starting the game: infuriating navigation of my character and bulky, needlessly complex menus. This gets better as you get used to them, but the menus still seem completely out of whack. Game play is rather formula. Instead of finding monsters in the tall grass, ala Pokemon, you dig for fossils in the ground. At first, this is really fun and interesting. Later, I didn’t want to mess with excavating and the tools, and the menu system. I just wanted my fossil so I could have a new monster. So, the one novel part of the game became tedious to me.
Combat takes place in 2 different styles. The first is when you are running around the planet as Rallen. You can run into some enemies named Krawl dust, and have a battle. Here Rallen runs around and swings his sword at them until they go away, not particularly fun or useful. The other is the spectrobe battles. You select 2 spectrobes to go into the battle, although you really only can control one. You face off against the opponents and fight is pretty standard monster battle fashion. Here is where the game kind-of falters. There are really only 3 different types of spectrobes, so the battles seem to be a paper-rock-scissors affair. Make sure you have the right type and you win. Sure there are varied attacks and strategies to explore, but it’s not that hard to figure out your best play. Oh, and don’t lose, unless you want to walk 5 minutes back to where you were, since the game sends you back to the beginning of the stage upon defeat.
The visuals are nice for a DS game, featuring 3D renders of its environments. These are pretty standard looking, but are still solid for a DS game. The character animations are nice, but nothing incredible. The sound is completely unremarkable. It did nothing to make me take notice, neither good nor bad.
There are some nice online features, as Disney Interactive took care to make this part of the game viable. You can sell any unwanted spectrobes in a market if you like. And, of course, have some online battles. Features like these keep this genre of game viable, as it’s always nice to face off against a person, rather than Boss Creature #4.
All in all, Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals is a sub-par attempt at a Pokemon clone. It may be a hit to its target audience, but the overall experience just did not seem to measure up. Although it did have some nice online features, Spectrobes is one of a long line of average attempts to capitalize on the monster collection genre.
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