Long time Spore series fans would have no trouble adjusting to Spore Hero Arena, a pocket-sized version of the hit game. The main hook remains the same: create your very own creature, collect new parts for it and customize it even further. Of course, as the name suggests, Spore Hero Arena features creature battles which justify the "arena" part of its name. But we are just not entirely sold on the idea as the game still tends to pander to its more creative aspects more.
Although the DS has very little wiggle room due to its tech specs, Maxis could have gotten more creative when it comes to graphics. Spore Hero Arena suffers from teeny tiny, blocky models which are a far cry from their PC counterparts. It's hard to enjoy patterns, colors and all the good stuff when we can't see it properly. Not everything has to be in full 3D, especially for a handheld system that sports a pair of small screens. Instead of middling, they could focus on arena battles -- yet another feature of the title which is in dire need of a revamp.
Touch Screen Friendly
Spore Hero Arena is viewed through a top-down perspective. You use the DS stylus to move your Spore around bizarre environments. You can order it to attack or defend using the D-pad, initiating challenges as you meet other creatures. Your goal is to collect the four crystal fragments found on each planet in order to challenge the boss or, more fittingly, arena champion. There are several planets to explore and a few easy puzzles to solve.
To introduce a bit of variety into the mix, you have the option to equip up to three types of Bio Powers to your Spore. This gives it special attacks which can be cast using the DS' L or R buttons then tapping on the desired target with the stylus. The arena offers several types of battles to choose from. There's a variant of the run-in-the-mill capture the flag called "Capture the Egg", there's also one where you attempt to knock opponents off the arena called Battle Royale.
Combat Needs Work
Sadly, Spore Hero Arena's downfall comes from flaws in the battle system itself. It feigns a strategic element by giving your Spore various abilities. You can strike with its claws, bite with its mouth, spit from afar, or defend using blocks. These things are quickly thrown out the window as soon as your opponents begin a relentless barrage of attacks which reduces your strategy to basics -- a.k.a. mashing buttons and hoping for the best. Another option is to wait for the opponents to fall off as they launch their kamikaze attacks.
There are mini games which give you the opportunity to earn additional parts for your pet creature, but that's about the whole gist of it. The entire game is composed of landing on a planet, mindlessly battling foes for the fragments and fighting the champion in another boring battle sequence. Yawn.
An Entertaining Creature Creator, But Nothing More
So really, when it boils down to it, creature creation is about the only thing that can make you stay and play this game through to the end. Considering the game's blocky 3D models and the small screen size of the Nintendo DS, that is not even much of an incentive for serious fans of the series. The controls are clunky, the fights are unbalanced and the mini games aren't all that engaging. Bottom line is, the game's battle elements are only exciting if you live for button mashing. Play Spore Hero Arena if that sounds like your idea of a good time or if you're curious about Spore's foray into the genre. On the other hand, if you're looking for a more enjoyable Spore game to enjoy on the go, we recommend checking out Spore Origins which is available for mobile devices.