Spare Parts Review (XBLA)
Spare Parts was developed by EA Bright Light and published by EA. It was released on XBLA on January 19th for 800MS Points ($10).
Spare Parts is a casual action adventure game with minor puzzle elements that mostly surround the co-op aspects of the game. You play as a robot, Mar-T, who is searching for stranded robotic allies and missing ship parts in order to escape the hostile environment where he’s shipwrecked. It’s a basic concept that’s been done many times before. Sadly, Spare Parts brings nothing new to the table and the gameplay is as generic as the title of the game.
So here’s what we liked:
Voice acting – Way too many development teams don’t hire voice actors these days. There’s not much that can annoy a gamer like having to read the entire story through a ridiculous amount of text clouds. Luckily, EA brought Simon Pegg along for the ride on Spare Parts. Pegg does a great job voicing the part of Con-rad, who acts as the narrator for the entirety of the game occasionally providing guidance as a side bonus.
Training area – The only fun variations of gameplay in Spare Parts can be found in the training area. If spamming the “X” button to make it through the campaign isn’t enough fun, then try a few of the unlockable training sessions out. Target practice, base jumping and statue breaking missions provide a nice change of pace anytime the campaign gets stagnant. The only downside to the training area is that you have to find hidden data disc collectables in the campaign in order to unlock more training missions. With that aside, the training area is probably the most fun area in the game.
And here’s what we didn’t like:
Terrible camera views – The first thing any gamer will notice while playing Spare Parts is that the traditional right stick camera controls are left out. Instead the functionality of the right stick is wasted on controlling the special powers of Mar-T which are more easily accessed with the left and right bumpers. Therefore, the camera adjusts poorly to Mar-T’s position leading to many jumps becoming more difficult than they should be.
To add to the camera missteps, co-op mode camera angles are an absolute mess. Both players share a single camera view in online and local co-op modes and the camera follows the host player most of the time. If one player steps too far out of frame, the other players life bar slowly drains until they die. There’s a small window of opportunity where the players can hurry to reunite in the same area to avoid a death but it’s really not worth the effort since there is no real penalty for death other than the loss of a few hundred dollars of in-game currency.
Generic fighting mechanics – It’s very disappointing that all the cool moves taught in the basic tutorial are fairly useless in actual gameplay. Due to the bad camera angles, the advanced moves are too hard to pull off most of the time. Instead, spamming the “X” or the “RT” buttons serves as the best option 95% of the time. In the rare instances where that tactic doesn’t work, throwing one or two punches with the power arms can kill any enemy.
Invisible walls everywhere – An average of 1 out of 3 jumps will result in a frustrating discovery of an invisible wall. So many landing areas in Spare Parts only have one attack angle causing a lot of backtracking as you miss jumps over and over again. Invisible ceilings also make quite an impression when rocket boots are in use. Basically, no creative shortcuts are allowed in Spare Parts. Most areas have one way to access them and it’s up to the player to find that one way by trial and error.
Collectables – There are games with cool collectables, like the 8 hidden stars in Braid. And then there are games with dumb collectables randomly scattered through each level to make short games seem longer than they actually are, like the collectables in Aqua. Spare Parts is of the latter of those two examples. Although the collectables are not vital to completing the campaign in Spare Parts, players will still feel obligated to find them. The premise of the game is finding all the spare ship parts scattered throughout each level, who wouldn’t attempt to collect them all? It’s a real shame that 100 collectables are supposed to be in the game but a slight oversight of a game patch before release lead to a non-existent 100th collectable. Hopefully a future patch can fix this issue, but as of right now 99% completion and 190/200 gamerscore is all that’s possible to achieve in Spare Parts.
Lack of direction – It’s hard for a linear game with so many invisible walls to lack direction, but Spare Parts is nearly impossible to figure out at crucial times. The first major boss fight with the giant spider will leave the even best of gamers scratching their heads. The voice of Con-rad will guide players in some of the levels, but during times when guidance is needed the most, Con-rad is nowhere to be found.
Spare Parts is a failure in almost every category. The gameplay is below average and the problems with the game are constant. Even at an almost inevitable sale price of 400MS points, this game isn’t worth the money or the time the demo takes. If action adventure games are your genre of choice, there are many better offerings on XBLA for the same price. To be honest, almost every action adventure XBLA game is better that Spare Parts.
Score: Skip it