In play

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

It is a time of unrest in the known galaxy. Most systems are uninhabited, save a few amoebas floating around in the pools of a few planets. Suddenly, a meteor from out of the cosmos hurtles towards a nearby planet, scorching through the upper atmosphere and crashing to the surface. The dust settles and from the ruins of the space rock burst forth thousands of micro-organisms into the waterways of this new world.

Enter Spore, the newest game from Maxis Entertainment, the creators of the Sims. Designed to be a nearly infinite journey of life from cell stage through the space age, Spore leads players through the evolutionary cycle of a race of creatures and gives you the reins to guide their progress. I'm sure many of you are a bit lost by my overly nerdy intro, but please read on-it gets better.

Spore: PC and Mac

The original game of Spore finds its home on PC and Mac, mostly due to the controls. But don't let that sway you; it's an amazing journey!

You start the game as a microorganism tossed into a new world. With simple point and click commands, you begin feeding your creature and making it grow, all the while collecting new parts to incorporate into evolved forms of said creature. At any time, you can call your mate and do the special dance of love (no, seriously: they dance around and a new cell appears) to begin evolving your creature into something more effective. After outgrowing the pond, you're given the chance to sprout legs and begin walking on land.

Continuing on land, you seek to either unify the planet by befriending other races, or conquer the planet by destroying everything else that breathes. At this point in the game, you continue leading your race throughout various stages of evolved life from creature stage, to tribal, to civilized and finally blasting off into the cosmos to spread yourself throughout the galaxy.

One of the best features of Spore is the amazingly simple controls. Most everything is done with point and click, and even evolving your creature by adding new parts is done with a click and drag.

Lastly, the built in online community of Spore is an amazing addition. You can set the game to pull info from other players, and when you interact with a new race in any of the stages of life, you will encounter creature races of other players around the world. You can also log in to Spore's community servers to check out the vast number of creations posted by everyone who plays Spore (at the time of writing, the number of online viewable creations is over 24 million).

All in all, this game is solid from start to finish.

Spore Creatures: DS

For Spore on the go, check out Spore for the Nintendo DS. Spore Creatures has a more kids feel to it and works more on a puzzle solving aspect using your creature's abilities to progress in the game. The game works well and most of it is controlled using the touch screen and stylus. Utilizing the Nintendo Wi-Fi network, players can trade their creations with friends and help to complete a sporpedia, an album showing all of the creatures from the game.

Game to avoid:

Lastly, this month's game to avoid. Saints Row 2 releases October 14 for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. This series plays along the same lines as a Grand Theft Auto Game, with killing, carjacking and theft being the main thrusts of the game. As with GTA, I suggest keeping your younglings away from this gang war train wreck. Far away.