Spore is a single screen shoot 'em up but, whilst the design harks back to the blasters of the early 1980's harking back to Robotron: 2084 or Berzerk!, it shares a lot in common with Gauntlet, where it takes elements such as health potions and generators. The player's spinning "craft" is a spinning star and the main protagonists, those titular spores, are single characters with a wobbling effect and, since there are a lot of them about the place, the craft has been given a decent gun with which to deal out some electric death.
Each level is a maze of walls, laser gates that can be disabled via switches or re-routed using mirrors and dirt that can be slowly shot away (or indeed eaten through by the spores), but the objective isn't to clear the area of attackers - instead the focus is on grabbing every barrel of anti-spore stuff. Of course, that's easier said than done of course since the spores only have eyes for the spinning craft and will attempt to snuggle up to it at every opportunity, draining precious energy and, although there are top-ups knocking about the place, these items can be shot so care needs to be taken to preserve the items and the craft's precious energy.
BUT IS IT GOING TO CELL?
Spore started life on the Commodore 16 and is designed to take advantage of its host machine; somehow there's a remarkable fifty levels wedged into memory and the option of creating new levels as well. The C64 version is a straight port produced by the original programmer and, apart from a little changing of colour brightness here and there (mostly where the C64 couldn't match exactly what the original was doing) and sporting some wonderfully clanky David Whittaker music and effects, it plays pretty much identically.
Zzap! 64 absolutely adored it, handing over a Silver Medal along with their overall score of 97% and describing it as a "brilliant display of ordered chaos", but after Spore made it's way over to the Spectrum, sister magazine Crash were a little more restrained, awarding only 67% overall (but stumping up 78% for "addictive qualities") and, along with urging players to ignore the control issues since none of the joystick or key redefinition options on the menu actually work, reviewer Mark Caswell commented that it was a "highly playable collect 'em up".
KILLS UP TO 99% OF ALL KNOWN SPORES... DEAD!
This is a great game and the kind of title that did budget software proud back in the day; all of the levels have been well thought out and, since wading in with the guns blazing is likely to result in a quick death even on the earliest stages as the formidable weapon still gets swamped by the sheer number of attackers, it forces players into treating the levels like the puzzles they actually are and putting some planning into their next move or even set of moves.
And sitting at the top of the pile is the C64 version because, although it plays identically to the C16 original, the firing sound (which is pretty much a constant during play) is a shade more muted and therefore takes a little longer to become grating during prolonged sessions. The Spectrum's joystick "support" and slower pace overall mean that it takes the third spot, but the more shallow difficulty curve and more sedate action might suit players who don't want the full-bore adrenalin rush of the other two.