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February 2, 2011
Spare Parts - PS3 Review
Release Launch Price Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
18/1/2011$AUTBAElectronic ArtsEA Bright Light1-2None
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Mar-T and Chip in Spare Parts.
It's quite rare that we get the opportunity to review downloadable games here at Futuregamez, but we've been lucky enough to get our hands on a copy of Electronic Arts' Spare Parts. Spare Parts is a game with high production values, has Simon Pegg (of Sean of the Dead fame among other movies) as the voice of the game's only speaking character and promises engaging local and online co-op gameplay. Needless to say I was looking forward to playing the game has it delivered the goods?

The game starts with a scene showing a spaceship dumping its rubbish into space. Luckily for us the rubbish is dumped into the atmosphere of a nearby planet whose gravity sucks it down to the surface. I say 'luckily for us' because it turns out the game's heroes, Mar-T and Chip, are among the dumped rubbish. Our luck doesn't end there because our heroes land right next to another spaceship which is currently out of action. The broken ship's computer, Con-Rad, soon puts you to work chasing down all the ship parts required (one-hundred in total) to get it operational again. A leisurely jaunt around the planet searching for spare parts is spoiled by the arrival of Lord Krung, the pilot of the ship who dumped our heroes out into space, whose scanners have detected Con-Rad's spaceship core and he's decided he wants it. To that end he has sent his henchmen down onto the planet to recover it and it's up to Mar-T and Chip to stop them.

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There game includes some puzzle solving!
Spare Parts is a platform game consisting of four levels set in the jungle, some caves, a mountain and a temple. All levels have between three and five stages, with boss fights at the end of the second, third and fourth levels. For the most part you run around collecting coins, ship parts and power cells for broken down robots, as well as fight with Lord Krung's henchmen and some native wildlife. While many of the ship parts and power cells are easily found, there are others that require the use of gadgets found during your quest. There are five gadgets to be found and all of them serve a specific purpose. The power arms can destroy rocks and boulders, as well as give your robot the strength to push heavier objects. The rocket boots are self-explanatory, while magno boots allow you to walk up metal walls and pathways through the power of magnetism. The nano trigger enables you to interact with various switches, most commonly to raise or lower a platform. The final gadget to discuss is the x-scanners which are used determine if an object can be interacted with a different gadget in your repertoire. This may seem rather needless, but you won't get too far into the game before you start relying on your x-scanners quite heavily.

In terms of combat there are a few moves at your disposal including standard and heavy attacks, as well as two different jump attacks. Your robots can also throw spare parts at your enemies though this does them little, if any damage, but does slow them down a little. Although the range of moves is decent enough there is little need to ever use any attack other than the standard one. The reason for this is twofold; firstly the jump attacks are hard to aim accurately while the heavy attack is a tad too slow and will often result in your enemy's attack landing first, and secondly because most enemies can be easily defeated with it. There are multiple different henchmen types in the game, as well as a few level-specific enemies like slugs and spider-monkeys, but few of them have the intelligence to avoid your button-mashing attacks.

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Spare Parts is a decent downloadble title.
Outside of the main game there are a couple of tasks you can do to keep busy. Firstly you can use the coins you've earned during the game to purchase upgrades for your gadgets as well as Mar-T and Chip's health. Each gadget can be upgraded three levels and you unlock new or improved skills with each upgrade. For example the rocket boots will set enemies on fire once they reach level two, while you'll earn more coins from scanning with the x-scanners when they level up. There is a training room in the ship where you can work on your skills like jumping, combat and effective use of the rocket boots. The training room starts with just the one program in there but during the game you can find other data disks which will unlock new programs. The programs themselves are quite uninspired and give you no direction when playing them. You do earn coins during the programs and can compare the time it took you to complete them with other players online, but this is scant reward really, and you're unlikely to make the training room a priority.

As mentioned in the introduction Spare Parts supports both local and online co-op play, and while the potential for fun is significant, this is where one of the game's biggest flaws comes into play. In single-player the fixed camera works reasonably well, though it feels archaic these days. However in multi-player the camera becomes a constant source of frustration. There is no split-screen multi-player; instead you and a friend are forced to share the same screen at all times. And I do mean forced as soon as anyone goes off-screen their health drops so quickly that death is the usual result. Although death means little in Spare Parts owing to the fact you have unlimited lives, it does break up the action and really limits your movement in multi-player games. There is also a distinct shortage of moments that require or encourage both players to work together. Sure, there are some spaceship parts that can only be obtained with the help of another player, but in terms of combat and puzzle-solving there is little benefit to bringing another player along. All in all the lack of fun in multi-player was palpable and a great disappointment.

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Surrounded by enemies...
Unfortunately there are a number of other problems with the game too. Like many other games, in Spare Parts when you flick a switch the camera will cut away to another part of the level where something is supposed to have happened. However figuring out what has happened is rather more difficult, and you'll often scratch your head trying to figure out your next step. The boss fights are another issue because you have to repeat the same attack pattern over and over again before they bite the dust. You'll be sick of the fights long before the bosses bite the dust.

The last boss has problems of his own, problems that kind of sum up Spare Parts. When you scan the last boss you're shown which gadget you need to use in order to hurt him. That's fine, and it works well initially, but what the game fails to indicate is that after one hit with the specified gadget you'll need to hit him with something else. The problem is that he reacts the same way to being hit with the first gadget, so you'll plug away for five or ten minutes thinking that he's dying, only to eventually discover you're not hurting him at all. Only by scanning him again with the x-scanners will you realise the error of your ways, but even then you can't help but think the game has caused the problem.

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Spare Parts is out now on PSN.
Another issue with the x-scanners is that some interactive objects don't work as they should unless you've scanned them with the x-scanners first. As a result you'll pass over some objects because your gadget didn't work on them, only to discover later that they do work, but only if scanned first. Some of the enemy attacks feel cheap too; on multiple occasions you'll be targeted by multiple enemies with guns who fire constantly, and there's not much you can do to avoid taking significant damage. There are some enemies who use their head as a battering ram but they can send you flying even when they're standing still if you get to close to them while punching. Issues like this make combat feel even less rewarding and more tedious, and given the camera and x-scanner issues affecting exploration, before long you'll find the whole game a bit of a chore.

Visually Spare Parts is very good for a downloadable title, with bright and colourful environments throughout. The various robots are well-animated, while Krung's henchmen look both evil and rather cute and non-threatening at the same time which is the right blend for a game aimed at kids. All of the collectible items like spaceship parts and power cells stand out and are easily spotted, though it's harder to discern interactive objects. The game ran at a good clip at all times except in one stage where there was a lot happening on-screen, at which point there was significant slowdown.

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Yet another screen of EA's Spare Parts.
The sound is disappointing, primarily because the talents of Simon Pegg go almost entirely to waste. There are few witty one-liners, and with the computer-effect placed on his voice he actually sounds rather bland. Many of the sound effects are irritating rather than cute or endearing and will wear thin well before the game is over. The music fares a little better as the light-hearted tunes play at a high tempo which suits the game well.

Overall you can't help but get the feeling the Spare Parts has been rushed to its release. There are a number of small issues and a few not so small, but many of them could have been ironed out with just a little more development time and play-testing. The camera issues, particularly in multiplayer, reduce your enjoyment to near zero while other issues such as interactive objects not working properly unless scanned with the x-scanners first and repetitive combat further hurt the game. While the production values are high for a downloadable title, the game itself is a let-down. Spare Parts is not without its charm, but the reality is that there are too many flaws present to recommend this game to anyone really. Hopefully a much-improved sequel is released at some point down the line because Spare Parts has potential, but in its current form it's one to avoid.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSBright, clear and well-animated throughout. There is nothing cutting edge here, but for a downloadable title Spare Parts looks very good.
SOUNDThe music isn't too bad, but the sound effects will annoy quickly. Simon Pegg's voice is wasted due to a lack of funny lines, and a computer effect over his voice which makes him sound quite bland.
GAMEPLAYCamera and interactive object issues make exploring less fun (especially in multi-player), while some cheap enemy attacks and suspect collision detection make combat repetitive and unrewarding.
VALUEThe game lasts around four hours and though you are encouraged to replay and find all the ship parts, it's unlikely you'll want to.
OVERALLSpare Parts is a game with potential, but there are too many problems with the game to make it much fun. It's not without its charm, but that can't save it.

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