Hands on – or hands full of – Spectrobes, the DS' latest battling critters

Say hello to the next big (little) thing from Disney's Buena Vista games division

Hands on – or hands full of – Spectrobes, the DS' latest battling critters
| Spectrobes

The massive success of Pokémon – we're still trying to catch 'em all – has seen plenty of other game makers trying to create similar games where you organise hundreds of cute species you can pitch into battle.

The one under today's microscope, Spectrobes, won't have the same success as Pokémon – but that doesn't mean we should ignore it. Spectrobes is shaping into a pretty cool game in its own right, and one that uses all of the DS' various features too.

For instance, you use the console's touch-screen to find your fossilised Spectrobes in the first place. You do this by tapping the ground with the stylus, searching for the graphical and audio prompt you get when a buried Spectrobe is in range. You then have to dig down, tapping out the depth of your hole in feet with touches of the stylus before you get to carefully remove the fossil from the earth with a selectable collection of drills and other archaeological tools.

It's a delicate act: If you're too heavy-handed with the stylus you'll destroy the fossil and have to find another one. You also have to use the DS' microphone to blow away the dust that your drilling produces in order to make the excavation process more accurate – a neat touch.

Safely removed, you then take your specimen back to the science lab to resurrect and grow it to maturity. Then it's time to head out into more dangerous areas of the Spectrobe universe to collect better fossils.

With almost 500 types available, there's plenty to hunt for. Thankfully, you can hold up to 250 fossils in your lab, of which six can be attached to your special Spectrobe wrist device. Two of these can then be selected for battles.

Unlike the turn-based combat of Pokémon, in Spectrobes the action happens in real-time. One of the DS' buttons is allocated to getting each Spectrobe to attack the enemy, and you can also have them carry out more complex manoeuvres and tactics, such as dodging counterstrikes or combining their attacks into double-combos. And as they fight in more battles, so they gain experience and evolve into more powerful forms.

Completing the customisation aspect of the game, you'll also be able to trade Spectrobes with your friends using the DS' adhoc wi-fi connection. A head-to-head battle mode will pit your warriors against a friend's too.

It all looked jolly good at E3 last week, but the game has now gone back underground – don't expect to find Spectrobes in stores until the end of 2006 at the earliest.

Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.