The Maxis team must have been well chuffed with Will Wright for coming up with a PC game that incorporates five smaller games because it's surely made it easier to create individual Spores across the different platforms. While Spore on DS focuses on the cute creature phase of the game (and of evolution), the mobile version concentrates on the early cell phase, with you beginning life as a mere speck.
Fortunately you're able to evolve into something prettier than a blob as Spore on mobile manages to cram in a creature editor – accessible after every three levels of the game you complete. With your accumulated DNA points you can alter all sorts of your creature's features, from its shape to its colour. Different body parts alter your abilities, too, so once you've bolted on some spikes you can pop bubbles found in the game to get at the food inside them.
The main game itself is quite reminiscent of any old-skool arcade shooter, except you're not popping off lead at your enemies but rather swallowing them instead.
Each level is a pool swarming with life – like peering into a heavily oversubscribed populated rock pool with a microscope – and filled with organisms of all shapes and sizes. Tiny spiky creatures float around, followed by huge round blobs that you don't stand a chance of gulping down whole (without developing indigestion anyway). As well as trying to lock and munch on smaller organisms, you need to make sure a bigger one doesn't take a bite out of you and, as a result, Spore is a fast-moving game requiring fierce concentration and quick movements.
It's very simple to play, though. Eating other creatures is as easy as getting close to them, waiting for a red target to hover over them then pressing fire to lock on and gobble them up. As well as being able to pick out individuals, you can set up combos by locking onto a series of creatures.
Unfortunately not every one is a tasty snack so some careful thought needs to go into what you're chasing. Some are poisonous and eating them results in your controls being reversed, while others might be armed with a giant barb for a mouth and so need to be eaten back end first. You can even tackle giant creatures ten times bigger than yourself by encouraging other spiky creatures in their vicinity to hit them.
Spore has 18 levels in total and these are played across six vastly different themed zones, from the Primordial Ooze area where cellular creatures swim through prehistoric purple goop, to the Sandy Coast where you're on the verge of crawling out of the ocean while dodging land predators.
Your motivation through them all though is evolving into something impressive, which is quite a satisfying task. A DNA bar runs across the top of the screen in each level and once you've eaten enough to fill it up, you get to move on.
The single-player game gives you reason to play through it several times, too, because you can form millions of different types of creatures to then save online. And Spore's online capabilities offer more than most mobile games. If you connect online through your phone, Quick Battles can be played against other players' creatures. You don't actually control your creature in these encounters – instead, you move the camera to follow the action – but they'll win or lose depending on how successfully you've evolved them, and on various environmental factors in each fight.
Those without internet access on their phone will be able to log in to the Spore website on a computer and manually import and export numerical creature codes with which to do battle. Winners can even send one another victory messages, while online leaderboards keep track of the best winning creations.
It's a simply addictive game with a fairly generic feel, but one that looks very impressive visually – there are hundreds of different creatures floating about – and has added depth through its creature creator and online modes. It's due for release at the same time as Spore on the other formats, on September 5th and we're pretty confident it's going to breathe new life into your phone when it arrives.